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Spokane to pay golfer $215,000 for sprained ankle

A golfer who sprained his ankle at Esmeralda Golf Course is getting $215,000 from the city of Spokane plus free golf for the rest of his life, but neither side is talking about the unusual case.

The settlement with 72-year-old Stan L. Peterson was approved earlier this week by the Spokane City Council, ending a five-year legal battle that featured gag orders and lost evidence.

Peterson, according to court documents, said he stepped onto a broken sprinkler cover and fell through it, injuring his ankle and back and leaving him unable to work.

He declined comment Thursday on the settlement.

“I had to sign a paper. I didn’t want to do it. They didn’t want me to disclose any terms of the settlement or anything that relates to it,” Peterson said Thursday. “My lawyer doesn’t want me to say anything. We want it over with.”

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist also declined comment.

“At this time, we don’t have the final signed settlement agreement,” Feist wrote in an email. “When we do, the agreement will include a joint statement.”

Terms of the settlement were contained in documents presented to City Council members.

The unusual episode started on Aug. 3, 2007, as Peterson was playing the 12th hole at Esmeralda. He’d hit his ball a few steps off the green. Then he backed up a few steps to allow another golfer to play through when his left leg fell through a sprinkler lid.

City lawyers maintained that the sprinkler lid had been damaged by vandals. But the sprinkler lid apparently disappeared during litigation, preventing the defense from examining it to determine whether the damage was consistent with vandalism or whether it was neglect. The city also at one point sought a gag order to prevent Peterson’s attorney, James Sweetser, from talking to the media, according to an April 25 article in the Inlander .

“I believe the City of Spokane and their risk management company is more worried about protecting the city against liability than preserving evidence so truth can be determined in a court of law,” Sweetser told the Inlander at the time.

Several calls to Sweetser’s office this week were not returned. Peterson said he spoke to Sweetser on Thursday and the lawyer advised him not to comment about the long-standing legal battle.

Peterson initially put a claim into the city for $400,000 for lost time of work and recreation.

“I went to the (doctor) that afternoon and X-rays were taken of my ankle which proved to be negative for a break,” Peterson wrote on his initial claim. “I was diagnosed with a bad sprain which will take considerable time to heal.”

As part of the settlement approved by the City Council, not only will Peterson have free golf for life at any of the city’s courses, including Esmeralda, Indian Canyon, Downriver and the Creek at Qualchan, but he will also be given 20 one-play golf passes for his friends to play with him.

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