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Student hurt when column at state school fell on her – $1.6 Million Settlement

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 24, 2018

Student hurt when column at state school fell on her – $1.6 Million Settlement

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 24, 2018//

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Plaintiff, a student at a Virginia public university, tied her hammock to two concrete columns in an open, public area on campus. One of the 800 pound columns fell on her, crushing her abdomen and pelvis.

Two people were injured several years earlier when a similar column in the same location fell on them. The university did nothing to remediate the dangerous situation or warn the public.

The column that fell previously had been removed, further disguising the danger of the potential for the columns to fall. FOIA responses revealed email between university employees that showed that they were aware of the dangerous situation, but no action was taken.

Plaintiff was flown to MCV in Richmond where she underwent several surgeries to repair her bilateral open-book pelvic fracture, tears and hemorrhage to her omentum and colon, and an acetabular fracture. Plaintiff had a difficult recovery, during which she endured 19 surgeries.

Plaintiff had significant scarring to her abdomen, hips and legs from her multiple surgeries, with a large scar running from her sternum to where her navel was consumed by the incision and scarring.

Plaintiff continues to have pain in her hips and back, but she was able to return to many of her normal activities within 12 months of the injury.

A Life Care Plan by Susan Wirt established future damages at more than $165,000.

Plaintiff’s attorneys sent a detailed Notice of Claim to the Division of Risk Management pursuant to the Virginia Tort Claims Act.

Counsel for the plaintiff and the Attorney General’s office agreed to a collaborative approach to resolving the claim, and a settlement proposal along with several supplements were sent to attorneys for the commonwealth.

Just prior to the running of the statute of limitations, the parties agreed to pre-litigation mediation to avoid filing suit against the university and several individual agents of the university. The university’s attorney, as well as a litigation section attorney from the Attorney General’s office, attended mediation. Plaintiff and her mother both made emotional statements at mediation, which very effectively highlighted some of the more personal effects of the injuries and extensive recovery period endured by the plaintiff.

After approximately five hours of mediation, the case settled for $1,600,000.

The parties agreed to reach a mutually agreeable compromise to avoid the expense and uncertainty of trial. This agreement included no admission of wrongdoing.


Type of action: Personal Injury – Premises Liability

Injuries alleged: Bilateral open-book pelvic fracture. Tears and hemorrhage to omentum and colon. Right acetabular fracture. More than 20 surgical procedures to repair orthopedic fractures, repair colon and omentary tears and hemorrhages, and for wound debridement and wound vac changes. Complicated and delayed wound healing. Development of cellulitis, enterocutaneous and colocutaneous fistulas and a peritoneal abscess. Surgical removal of pelvic stabilizer bar 19 months post injury.

Name of case: Jane Doe v. Virginia Public University

Court: Pre-Litigation

Name of mediator: Hon. William Alexander (Ret.)

Date resolved: Jan. 20, 2018

Special damages: $578,000 minimum, $623,000 maximum. Some medicals disputed as not accident related.

Demand: $2,000,000

Offer: $1,000,000

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $1,600,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Raphael E. Ferris and Lenden A. Eakin, Roanoke

Attorneys for defendant: Assistant Attorneys General

Plaintiff’s experts: Susan Wirt, RN, Life Care Plan; David R. Hall, P.E., L.A., Consulting Engineer; Jan Thomas, Ph.D., CSP, Safety Expert

Insurance carrier: Virginia Division of Risk Management

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