It's been 18 months since Dennis Schulz, an Edmonton father of two, went to a Bon Jovi concert and in a heartbeat had his neck snapped under the weight of a falling human being.
But any relief for the quadriplegic, who launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in 2007, is still a year or two away in a case that has entangled the concert promoter, the arena owner, the company in charge of serving booze at the show and even Edmonton's chief of police.
"I can't say if the [trial] date will be 2010 or 2011," Schulz's lawyer, Patrick Phelan, said in an interview with the Canadian Press. He said his client prefers not to talk to reporters but added that "his attitude is excellent," especially considering the circumstances.
"How would you feel if you had no motion in your arms and legs?" Phelan said.
Schulz was 40 at the time he and his wife, Elana Hartman, went to see the rock band perform at Rexall Place on July 12, 2007.
They were near the corner of the building in section 222, Row 22 (Schulz was in Seat 5) — good seats, the second row of the upper deck, not far from the stage.
Schulz and his wife were sitting in front of Kendra Stasyk and Darryl Allan. Behind that couple were Brad McCorry and Alisa Rabideau.
According to Schulz's statement of claim, the atmosphere wasn't safe from the get-go: the lighting was too dark, the music too loud and security lax.
Around 9:30 p.m., things quickly got out of hand.
According to the statement, Rabideau was drunk and was "rudely, recklessly and repeatedly spilling beverages on spectators seated a row ahead of her."
This led to a conflict between Allan and Rabideau's companion, McCorry.
The two men began pushing each other, and Allan toppled straight back, pushing Schulz's head down until his neck snapped. His head was left hanging limply, say witnesses, his chin resting on his rib cage.
Wife, province also suing
Nobody noticed at first as the melee continued and the band played on.
Schulz's C4-5 vertebrae were snapped. Today, he can't feel anything below his neck. He can't feed himself or even cough on his own.
"Mr. Schulz ... has been advised by his doctors that he will not work at his job as a journeyman machinist again," Phelan wrote in a letter on file in the courthouse. "He will not walk again. Currently, he has no movement in his hands."
None of the allegations contained in the statement of claim have been proven in court.
Schulz is one of three plaintiffs. His wife, Hartman, is also suing for loss of income and the province of Alberta is trying to recoup health care costs. Schulz is asking for $7 million for medical care.
His lawsuit was filed in November 2007, and in subsequent months, the defendants filed statements of defence. Many have also filed notices to each other stating that should they be found liable, they may be coming after each other for the money.
Rabideau, in her statement of defence, says she wasn't drunk or disorderly and that Allan started the confrontation by throwing a drink in her face.
In his statement of defence, McCorry said he accidentally spilled a drink on Stasyk and apologized, but Allan overreacted, throwing a drink on Rabideau, then lunging at McCorry. He said he "placed his open hand on Allan's chest to ward him off. Allan then went backwards."
Allan, in his statement, said McCorry pushed him without provocation or warning. He said he "had no opportunity to avoid contact with McCorry or to prevent himself falling."
Stasyk, in her statement, said she didn't do anything to start or inflame the melee.
Schulz accuses the concert promoter, Panhandle Productions, and the arena operator, Edmonton Northlands, of negligence for failing to provide adequate security. Both deny this.
Schulz says the employees of the company in charge of serving liquor at the concert, Dominion SportService, overserved and didn't check to see if anyone was drunk. Dominion denies this.
Schulz says the police, some of whom were contracted to provide security for the event, were lax. He claims that rather than monitor the crowd, officers simply asked ushers to report problems to them.
Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boyd has filed a statement of defence that says "adequate policing resources were supplied."
Police have not laid charges, citing the case as non-criminal.
If the case goes to trial, it's expected to last almost a month.