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Jury awards record personal injury verdict

A personal injury lawsuit can seek compensation for expensive losses from another person's negligence or recklessness. A jury recently awarded $148 million in what is believed to be the largest verdict ever in a Cook County personal injury case.

The verdict was awarded against the City of Chicago for injuries that a former dance student suffered when a pedestrian shelter at Chicago's O'Hare Airport fell on her during the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2015. Her spinal cord was severed and she is now paralyzed from her waist down.

A storm approached the area the plaintiff and two other women were standing and waiting for a ride. The shelter shook loose and fell on the plaintiff. It was ultimately determined that the shelter had missing bolts. An investigation of other shelters at the airport disclosed that they were improperly maintained because of missing bolts, broken brackets or other corroded parts. These shelters were later removed.

The City argued that the plaintiff was entitled to an award of $34 million, while her attorneys sought up to $174 million at trial. Earlier, the City admitted liability but was willing to settle for $30 million, while the plaintiff demanded $95 million before the trial.

Much of the trial concerned whether a spinal cord stimulator device could sufficiently treat her lifelong nerve pain from the atypical injury to her spinal cord. The jury agreed with expert testimony that pain relief may be unavailable and granted an award sufficient to pay for medical bills. The trial lasted seven days, but the jury deliberated for only four hours. Before leaving the courtroom, jurors hugged the plaintiff.

Until this case, the record judgment in Cook County was a 1991 verdict of $128 million. The recent award is almost three times the highest jury verdict against the City. The City has not announced whether it will appeal. It is insured for up to $500 million.

Victims of catastrophic injuries, in addition to medial and personal obstacles, face the struggle of seeking compensation for their losses. An attorney can help them obtain proof of their case.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Jury awards her $148M, but woman says O'Hare bus shelter collapse took away 'my life'," Steve Schmadeke, Aug. 25, 2017

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