Arizona Sheriff Loses Suit Over 2013 Fall-Related Broken Shoulder

By JACQUES BILLEAUD | October 3, 2016

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has lost his lawsuit that sought money from the owners of a downtown Phoenix office building for a broken shoulder he suffered three years ago when he tripped and fell outside the property.

The lawman said the building’s owners were negligent and should have known about dangerous conditions that led to his February 2013 fall. His lawyer argued a walkway outside the building was improperly maintained and didn’t comply with building codes.

Arpaio lost the case on Thursday when a judge ruled the sheriff failed to show drains on the walkway were dangerous. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Aimee Anderson concluded that the 84-year-old Arpaio “should have been able to navigate the walkway without injury.”

The sheriff fell as he was walking to lunch and landed on his left shoulder, breaking it in two spots. He spent two days in the hospital and two weeks recuperating at his home.

Arpaio was not shy about bringing attention to his injury. He posted a photo on Twitter of his wife kissing him while he sat up in a hospital bed. He auctioned off the sling worn during his recovery for $2,600, and his office produced a news release to publicize the charity auction. He also did a TV interview from his hospital room.

His lawsuit against Hines GS Properties and other building owners sought an unspecified amount of damages.

The decision to file the lawsuit marked a reversal for Arpaio, who normally finds himself on the receiving end of countless legal complaints. He has complained in the past about being the target of frivolous lawsuits.

Mark Goldman, an attorney representing Arpaio, said in a statement that the sheriff will ask the judge to reconsider the ruling and, if that fails, will appeal the decision.

Goldman said the case wasn’t about Arpaio “profiting from his fall and injury, but instead Sheriff Arpaio making sure that members of the public are protected from suffering from such a similar fall.”

Lawyers for the building’s owners said Arpaio claimed he tripped over a drain, but added that the sheriff couldn’t articulate what was wrong with the drain, other than saying something was protruding from the drain.

Arpaio was asked during a deposition in November about comments he made to news reporters about his injury, such as telling a TV reporter from his hospital room that he blamed himself for his injury.

“I am angry at myself,” Arpaio told The Associated Press two weeks after he was injured. “When you look at everything I have been through, and I get incapacitated by a sidewalk.”

An attorney for the building owners asked Arpaio why he was angry at himself if he felt he wasn’t responsible for the fall. The sheriff answered that he was angry at having to undergo physical rehabilitation and that the accident had occurred at all.

He was later asked if he simply wasn’t paying attention. “No,” Arpaio answered.

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