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Additions to the Million-Dollar Settlements of 2020 list

Virginia Lawyers Weekly is reporting two additions to the list of “Million-Dollar Settlements of 2020” that was published in our March 29 edition.

The first settlement, involving a woman whose hair got caught in a glue machine at a furniture factory, actually was the largest reported to VLW during 2020, and it was originally published in September. 

It was inadvertently omitted from the March 29 compilation. VLW apologizes for that error.

The second case is an auto-accident settlement from December that was reported only recently.

Both have been  incorporated into the online version of our MDS list at our website, valawyersweekly.com.

If there are additional settlements that need to be included, please let us know – we seek to make the compilation as complete as possible. Thank you.

1. $8 million

Woman’s scalp dislodged by machine lacking safety panels

Type of Action: Products liability

Name of Mediator: Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Waugh Crigler

Attorney(s) for Plaintiff: Glenn W. Pulley, Lynchburg; Matthew W. Broughton, Roanoke; Evans G. Edwards, Roanoke; Amanda M. Morgan;  Lynchburg; Abby M. Broughton, Roanoke

Case summary: Plaintiff was working as an operator on a production line at a furniture plant. Her responsibilities included operating a glue spreader machine. The glue spreader was manufactured and sold by two of the defendants and was installed by the third defendant.

Manufacturer testified the glue spreader was designed to incorporate safety panels, calling them “essential safety devices.” The panels were removed at the point of manufacture and allegedly shipped with the machine. The operating manual did not mention the safety panels and the manufacturer was unable to establish the panels arrived at the plant.

A photo taken by the installer established there was never a safety panel at the location where plaintiff was standing. Plaintiff was following standard operating procedures by checking to see if glue had gotten onto the bottom roller. A piece of her restrained hair became dislodged and stuck to the glue-covered roller, which pulled her head to the machine, degloving plaintiff’s scalp from the base of her skull past her eyebrows.

Plaintiff underwent emergency surgery to replant her scalp. Replantation proved unsuccessful. Plaintiff eventually received skin grafts harvested from her lower abdomen and thigh, which are at constant risk of damage and infection. Plaintiff is completely disabled from work, has lifetime pain management, recurring bouts of debilitating depression and needs assistance maintaining her household and managing her care.

4. $4.683 million

Driver awarded over $4.6 million after accident with tractor-trailer

Type of action: Personal injury

Attorney for Plaintiff: Jason W. Konvicka, Richmond

Case summary: Jane Doe was driving in the left travel lane of Interstate 81 North. The defendant was driving a tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 South. The defendant thought he missed his exit. Instead of taking the next exit, he stopped his tractor-trailer and attempted to make an illegal U-turn using an “authorized vehicle only” cut through in the median.

Doe had no recollection of the crash due to her injuries. There were no independent eyewitnesses to the crash.

Doe broke almost every bone in her face. She also sustained a traumatic brain injury with hemorrhages, cervical spine fractures, transverse process fractures, a left first rib fracture and a comminuted fracture of a bone in the right hand.

Doe is now legally blind in her right eye, has lost her sense of smell and taste, experiences constant tinnitus in her right ear and has daily headaches. She continues to experience memory changes, increased frustration, balance issues and decreased motivation.

The defendant admitted negligence, but claimed that Doe was contributorily negligent and could have avoided the crash if she had kept a proper lookout.

The case was mediated virtually on Dec. 16, 2020, and settled one week later.