A Lincoln veterinary clinic and its property owner have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a wrongful-death case filed by the widow of a man killed after he was crushed in a partial ceiling collapse in 2019.
In the lawsuit filed in 2020 in Lancaster County District Court, Ryan Kizzier’s widow, Dana Kizzier, alleged Nebraska Animal Medical Center at 56th Street and Old Cheney Road and Forney Properties LLC’s negligence led to Kizzier’s death six days later.
He was the 40-year-old father of two young boys.
The lawsuit alleged that prior to July 15, 2019, the clinic hazardously had used and overloaded the area above the ceiling of its first-floor dog kennels with heavy shelving and storage.
After a water pipe broke and the ceiling began to sag, staff were able to stop the flowing water. Kizzier’s attorney, Eric Brown, said Nebraska Animal Medical Center and Forney Properties were advised that structural changes in the first-floor kennels were necessary to safely repair the pipe and failed to make the changes or contact a structural engineer about it.
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Instead, he said, they contacted Ryan Kizzier, owner of Lincoln Plumbing, to fix it and restore water to the kennels.
When Kizzier arrived and began working on the pipe, the first-floor ceiling collapsed on him.
Rescue crews were able to free him by using airbags but Kizzier later died at a hospital.
In its answer to the suit, NAMC denied any knowledge of preexisting structural issues and said Kizzier alone had made the decision to examine the ceiling, “which suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed through no fault of defendants.”
But Brown said he subpoenaed documents and learned another local contractor had serviced the kennel area two months before the collapse and said it appeared structurally unsound. The plumber reportedly expressed concerns “about whether it was safe for employees and dogs to use that area.”
After the collapse, NAMC was sold. Though manager Adam Forney is believed to still work there.
The parties reached a settlement at mediation in October. Earlier this month, the Lancaster County Court approved the settlement as required by law and conservatorships have been set up for Kizzier’s surviving minor children.
According to court records, a third of the settlement will go to attorney fees, and Dana Kizzier and her sons will receive the rest, $1,984,000.
Brown said attorneys are relieved for the family, “as this will allow them to continue healing and hopefully provide some measure of closure.”
He called Ryan Kizzier’s death tragic and completely preventable.
“A wife lost a husband and two boys senselessly lost their father because a business was more concerned about getting its water turned back on to start using the kennels again for profit than they were for the safety of people working in that area, including their own employees. There was no excuse,” the attorney said.
Attorney Dan Ketcham, who represents NAMC and Forney Properties, didn’t respond to a request for comment.