HOLLIDAYSBURG - Children who live in downtown Altoona don't have many parks or recreation areas, so they spend time playing in a parking lot owned by Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on the 2000 block of Sixth Avenue, according to testimony Monday in a civil trial.
Sacred Heart and its Monsignor, Stanley Carson, were in court because one of those youth suffered a severe injury to his left leg Oct. 10, 2000, when a concrete block wall in a former carport on the parking lot collapsed.
The decorative blocks broke Alex McCoy's lower left leg near the ankle, causing a deformity, several operations, constant pain and a future operation in which the ankle will have to be fused to the leg, said Todd Berkey, McCoy's Pittsburgh-based attorney.
McCoy, who was baptized in the church, is asking a civil court jury to award him a ''substantial'' amount of money to take care of his medical bills, past and future, and for the pain he has suffered.
He also is requesting damages for possible wages lost during his lifetime because of the injury.
Berkey said a request for money damages is all the law permits.
''You can't give Alex back his leg,'' he said to the jury.
The trial is expected to last all week and will include testimony from three physicians about the injury McCoy suffered when he was 12.
Hollidaysburg attorney Steve Dugas said church official Paulette Johns often told the neighborhood children to ''skedaddle,'' but they kept coming back.
''We do not bear liability for these injuries,'' Dugas said.
The church tried to keep the kids from playing on its property, he said.
Dugas also said the church would present testimony from a neighbor who allegedly saw two children pushing and rocking the wall prior to its collapse.
McCoy was with a friend, Edward Longo, when the wall collapsed. Both are expected to testify.
Berkey said children in central Altoona have used the parking lot for recreational purposes for 40 or 50 years.
One witness, Veda Cupples, said the six children she raised all played in the parking lot. She said they would ride bikes and scooters, play hide-and-seek and many other games.
The jury must determine whether the church was negligent, not only in allowing children to play on the lot, but also in maintaining the block wall.
The fact that kids from several generations used the lot for play under the law gave them ''implied consent'' to use it, Berkey said, pointing out that the church had an obligation to keep the lot safe.
Terry Tomassetti, a Blair County commissioner who also has a law office next to the parking lot, testified that the concrete block wall didn't appear to be as secure as it needed to be.
McCoy, now 20, underwent a major operation in April to rebuild his leg, Berkey said. He was using crutches in court Monday.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.