Spencer Nicodemus was 18 years old, a senior at Joplin High School, an Eagle Scout and a mentor to young children, with whom he was playing basketball on March 2.
But as he was playing a sport he loved, an improperly installed basketball goal at Irving Elementary School’s gymnasium collapsed, crushing Nicodemus and killing him, alleges a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in late August in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Nicodemus’ parents, Sean and Kathryn Nicodemus — the plaintiffs on the lawsuit — declined to speak with The Star, but their attorney detailed the lawsuit and its motivation.
“The reasons they’re doing this is to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Joplin-based lawyer Scott Vorhees. “(They hope) to bring an awareness that there’s a danger there that needs to be inspected for and corrected.”
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Vorhees added that, to his knowledge, no one was dunking when the goal collapsed.
The lawsuit names the companies that had different roles in bringing and inspecting the goal in question at the school: Sapp Design Associates Architects, which contracted with the district to design and inspect the school; Universal Construction Company, which served as a general contractor with the district; Carroll Seating Co., which sold and installed the goal; and Performance Sports System — at the time owned by Gared Holdings LLC (since renamed GH Post Sale LLC) — which designed, manufactured and sold the goal.
Vorhees said the goal, the structure that includes the hoop and backboard, had been improperly installed and thus two key safety features that could have prevented the goal from falling failed. Nicodemus’ cause of death was listed as a crush injury to his torso, Vorhees added.
“Spencer Robert Nicodemus received injuries which were ultimately fatal and were directly caused or directly contributed to be caused by the basketball goal and assembly being in a defective condition when sold,” the lawsuit said.
It alleges the defendants were negligent and are thus “liable for the injury and death of Spencer Robert Nicodemus.”
Vorhees added that other schools in the state have inspected their goals after previously doing business with one or more defendants.
“My belief is that these (goals) were sold all over the state, if not the nation,” he said.
None of the companies named as defendants agreed to an interview or responded to interview requests.
“Our attorney is taking care of all of that. Thank you anyway,” said an employee with Carroll Seating.
The lawsuit seeks a judgment against the defendants for a “fair and reasonable” sum.