At 68, Sally Stofer was a vivacious Macon grandmother enjoying retirement after 20 years of teaching at Tattnall Square Academy.
One night last July, she attended a Second Sunday concert at Washington Park, where she spent the evening listening to beach music and oldies with her sister.
When it came time to leave, the sisters climbed stone steps that lead toward Washington Avenue, where their car was parked.
Stofer lost her balance and fell backward onto the steps, hitting her head. She soon lost consciousness and remained on life support for more than a month before dying Aug. 28, 2014, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her children earlier this month.
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The lawsuit, filed in Bibb County State Court, seeks damages against Mercer University, which rented the park, advertised the event and organized the concert series, according to the suit.
Larry Brumley, Mercer’s senior vice president for marketing communications, said the school has been served with the suit.
Citing the pending litigation, he declined further comment.
Stofer’s children contend that the school was negligent in failing to provide adequate lighting on the stairs and taking other steps to ensure the safety of patrons, such as stationing volunteers to help people safely traverse the stairs that weren’t sufficiently equipped with handrails, according to the lawsuit.
There wasn’t a handrail on the section of stairs where Stofer fell, although building codes require a rail on all exterior commercial stairs with two or more steps, according to the suit.
Macon-Bibb workers repaired the staircase, putting in handrails, after Stofer’s fall, said Ranse Partin, an Atlanta lawyer representing Stofer’s family.
Handrails had broken off in the area where Stofer fell, he said.
Stofer was partially conscious and making “unintelligible sounds” after her fall. She was rushed to the Medical Center, Navicent Health, and later taken to Regency Hospital of Central Georgia.
After 48 days in the hospital, Stofer’s children made the “very difficult and gut-wrenching decision to honor their mother’s advanced directive to remove life support and allow her to pass away,” according to the suit.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.