Ed Merriman / The Bulletin

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Nov. 10 in a civil lawsuit filed against the Sisters Movie House Inc. by Phyllis Saunders, 87, of Sisters. The lawsuit, filed Aug. 10 in Deschutes County Circuit Court, seeks $403,885 in medical expenses and damages stemming from injuries the lawsuit alleges occurred June 4 when Saunders fell over an “unmarked and unlighted step with no railing or other protective barrier” in the theater.

The suit alleges the Sisters Movie House was negligent for failing to remove the alleged unsafe condition or to provide sufficient warning, railing or illumination to prevent falling off the step. The theater is located at 720 Desperado Court, Sisters.

Saunders’ attorney, Bruce Brothers of Brothers, Hawn&Coughlin in Bend, said the step is part of a six-inch-high platform on which a row of four seats is mounted at the back of the theater where Saunders sat to watch a movie on June 4.

Lisa Claussen, an owner of the Sisters Movie House, said she opened the only theater in Sisters six years ago with a goal of providing high-quality entertainment to Sisters so residents and guests staying in town wouldn’t have to drive to Bend or Redmond.

She said she is hoping legal fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit won’t force her to shut it down. “I think any business where somebody is bringing a lawsuit against them, that may or may not be valid, it is absolutely going to impact that business,” Claussen said Friday.

“With any business dealing with the public, these kinds of lawsuits can crush them. It is unfortunate, but it is the crazy world we live in,” she said.

Brothers said in an interview Tuesday that Saunders stood up in the dark theater and fell over the step, which he said was right in front of her seat.

“As a result of the fall the plaintiff sustained serious personal injuries, which include a tibial plateau and patella fracture, knee pain and limitation of motion including walking without assistance,” according to the lawsuit.

Brothers said Saunders incurred more than $103,885 in medical expenses for surgery and other treatment during three weeks from June 4 through June 24 in St. Charles Bend.

The suit also seeks $50,000 for expected future medical expenses and $250,000 in noneconomic damages for the pain, physical limitations, mental and emotional trauma and loss of enjoyment of life’s activities for Saunders.

Brothers said Saunders was independent prior to the fall and now has to walk with a walker and is more dependent on her family than she was before the fall.

Brothers said Sisters Movie House is insured by Liberty Northwest, and because the business is incorporated Claussen won’t be personally liable.

Claussen said insurance adjusters have been in and out of the building doing inspections since the lawsuit was filed.

“People think just because you have insurance a lawsuit will not have an impact, but that is not the case. We have some resources we are using to pay legal fees, and the insurance costs are going through the moon,” Claussen said.