A real estate agent whose Hollywood ties had his career on the ascent saw his fortunes and his career take a fall when he literally tumbled more than a dozen feet from a rooftop surface of the iconic Sunset Vine Tower due to the negligence of the property owners and management company, an attorney told a jury Thursday.
Lawyer Deborah S. Chang, on behalf of plaintiff Eddie Arnez, said her client had a future without limits while working for upscale real estate firms and putting together flashy videos to market properties belonging to people he met through his Tinseltown connections.
“He was at the height of where he wanted to be,” Chang told the Los Angeles Superior Court panel hearing trial of Arnez’s lawsuit against building owner Instrata Sunset Vine Tower and the property manager, Alliance Residential Co. LLC. “He was doing what he wanted to do.”
But after his May 4, 2018, fall on the top of the 20-story building at Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street — which Chang said could have been prevented with inexpensive safety measures — Arnez, then 42, suffered brain damage that has made his future in real estate questionable and left him with the likelihood of acquiring dementia at a younger age than he might have before being injured.
“He won’t get better, he’s going to get worse,” Chang said.
But defense attorney Timothy R. Windham told jurors that Arnez’s fall was his own fault, noting that Alliance business manager Eric Click, who was with Arnez when the fall occurred, recalled seeing the plaintiff holding his cell phone before the misstep.
“He wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing,” Windham said.
Arnez has done well with his numbers of listings, clients and commissions since his accident and continues to promote himself, said Windham, who added that the plaintiff’s total medical bills were $68,000 — a number Chang disputes.
According to Chang, Arnez established his connections with directors, producers and actors while working at various Hollywood studios, then obtained his real estate license and began using those ties to obtain clients — many of whom lived outside California, but needed places to stay while working in the state — for such real estate firms as Sotheby’s, where he obtained his first job by walking in and being hired the same day, Chang said.
“What he had was a built-in clientele,” Chang said.
Arnez later obtained a job at Compass real estate and while there, was approached about marketing apartments for lease at the Sunset Vine Tower, a departure for someone used to selling homes, Chang said. He used his resources, including drones, to give potential lessors views of not only living space, but attractions within walking distance, Chang said.
Click had an idea to make the Sunset Vine Tower’s rooftop more than an area of for ventilation tubing and gritty surfaces and instead, a place where tenants could go for recreation, according to Chang. So, the day of the accident, Click invited Arnez — who Chang said was inexperienced in walking on high-rise roofs — to accompany him on a stroll on a rooftop walkway, according to the attorney.
Chang, who used many videos in her presentation, showed jurors footage Arnez took of the skyline while on the walkway.
To get to the walkway, Click and Arnez had to climb one ladder from the main rooftop to an elevated surface, then ascend another ladder to the walkway, and it was while descending from the elevated surface back to the main rooftop that Arnez tripped on air vents and fell back to the main rooftop, according to Chang.
Arnez’s tumble could have been prevented had there been a guardrail on the elevated surface or had he been tethered so that his fall would have been stopped before hitting the hard surface, both of which would have been inexpensive safety measures, Chang said. Windham told jurors, however, that his clients had no duty to provide either of those safety measures.
Arnez remembers nothing about the accident because of his injuries, but is well aware of the frustrations he has had since then with memory and comprehension, Chang said.
“He goes into fits of rage because he can’t remember something,” said Chang, who added that a mix-up over one real estate transaction in particular after the accident has now made his future in the business bleak.
Arnez is now known to some as “the guy who fell of the building,” Chang said.