Mori Bergmeyer’s daughter and a Pioneer Homestead resident have joined in a lawsuit against Pioneer Homestead for two icy falls last winter that resulted in death and serious injury.
Ariel Mann, Bergmeyer’s daughter and wrongful death representative, and Dana Kelsey, a resident at Pioneer Homestead, are suing the housing complex, its parent company North Star Management, South Park Nursery and Landscaping and its owner Ry Wohnsen.
Bergmeyer, 80, died March 8 from a head injury after falling on icy pavement outside his apartment at Pioneer Homestead.
Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said Bergmeyer’s death was from intracranial bleeding related to the fall.
Six days before that, on March 2, Dana Kelsey slipped and fell on an icy walkway and broke her back.
“Her injuries required a spinal fusion,” the lawsuit, filed by attorney Alex Freeburg, states. “Ms. Kelsey and Mr. Bergmeyer both slipped and fell on icy walks that are owned, maintained, and cleared of snow by defendants.”
Pioneer Homestead, which has three housing complexes in East Jackson, provides housing for low-income seniors and disabled residents.
“The Pioneer Homestead limited partnerships are not only aware that they serve a vulnerable population, they chose to serve a vulnerable population, in part to obtain valuable federal tax credits and subsidies,” the complaint states. “As a result of housing a vulnerable population, the Pioneer Homestead limited partnerships have a heightened duty of care to ensure the safety of their tenants.”
There was regular snowfall during the 2018-19 winter and several residents who slipped and fell on the ice or snow complained to Deborah Barnes, the on-site property manager, the lawsuit states. Barnes even saw someone fall on the ice, the complaint claims.
“Ms. Barnes took no actions to prevent or mitigate the risk of slip and falls on the ice and snow,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say Pioneer Homestead and the other defendants breached their duty of care by not maintaining the premises.
In Kelsey’s lease agreement the landlord promises to “maintain the buildings and any common areas in a decent, safe and sanitary condition in accordance with local housing codes and rural development regulations.”
Pioneer Homestead contracts with Ry Wohnsen and South Park Nursery for snow removal. The lawsuit claims negligence on Wohnsen’s part for not removing the snow and ice.
On Nov. 1 Judge Timothy Day filed a judgment against Wohnsen and South Park Nursery because Wohnsen had failed to respond before the court’s deadline.
The defendants have asked for the court to set aside that judgment in order to contest the allegations of the suit.
Defendants Pioneer Homestead and North Star Management asked the court for an extension of time for their response.
The amount in controversy is listed as $1 million in Teton County District Court records.
A hearing has not yet been set.