Lawyers have reached a negotiated settlement of an injury claim for a slip in a school cafeteria four days into a jury trial to determine liability.
Dawn DiSalvio was a cafeteria worker at the Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, when on 30 January 2008 she slipped on liquid which had allegedly leaked out from milk containers that had been delivered to the school that morning.
Dawn fell heavily and suffered a severe spinal cord injury for which she spent 73 days in hospital and received dozens of epidural steroid injections. She is confined to a wheelchair, still suffers chronic pain from her injury, and has been subsequently diagnosed with neurological impairments, incontinence and depression.
After seeking legal advice, Dawn made an injury claim for a slip in a school cafeteria against Cream-O-Land Dairy – the company responsible for the milk delivery – claiming that the dairy´s delivery driver failed to comply with industry standards for checking there was no leakage before leaving the premises.
Cream-O-Land Dairy denied their liability for Dawn´s injuries, arguing that no damaged packaging had been identified at the time of the accident or since, and contested that her fall could have been attributable to her prior medical history of morbid obesity, gait dysfunction and problems with her right knee; which could have given way as she was retrieving items from the walk-in refrigerator in which the milk had been placed.
As no acceptable agreement could be reached, a jury trial was scheduled to be heard in Philadelphia´s Court of Common Pleas before Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson. However, just four days into the hearing, lawyers announced that they had reached a negotiated settlement of Dawn´s injury claim for a slip in a school cafeteria for $6.5 million.
On hearing that a settlement had been agreed upon, Judge Massiah-Jackson dismissed the jury and closed the case.
A janitor has been awarded compensation for a slip on ice at school – the injuries from which resulted in him losing his job.
In November 2010, Stephen McKeown from Port Glasgow in Inverclyde worked as a janitor at St Stephen´s High School in Port Glasgow. One week, he was asked to cover for the permanent janitor at the nearby at St Francis´ Primary School, and he arrived on the Monday morning at 7.00am to start clearing ice which had formed overnight from the paths to the classrooms and the playground.
From 9.00am onwards, sixty-one year old Stephen salted by hand the areas of lower priority – such as the school´s parking lot – but, during the first lesson break, two pupils drew his attention to a condom at the top of one of the fire escapes leading to the classrooms. As he climbed the steps of the fire escape, Stephen slipped on the icy stairs and fell against a wall – damaging his back and suffering a leg injury.
Unable to maintain his janitor duties, Stephen´s work contract was terminated by Inverclyde Council – following which, Stephen claimed compensation for a slip on ice at school with the assistance of a lawyer. Inverclyde Council denied their liability for his injuries and the case went to the Outer House of the Court of Session, where it was heard by Lord Burns.
After hearing evidence from both parties, Lord Burns found in Stephen´s favour; for although the council had a system of work in place which could have prevented Stephen from suffering his injuries, it was never implemented – nor was Stephen ever provided with the tools which would have made jobs such as spreading salt on icy days safer and more effective.
Lord Burns awarded Stephen £30,000 compensation for a slip on ice at school, finding that Inverclyde Council had been in breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
Figures provided for the BBC under a Freedom of Information request have revealed that school injury compensation claims cost Welsh education authorities more than £800,000 (over $1 million) in the five years to 2013.
A range of accidents and injuries were included in the figures which covered 312 school injury compensation claims made by parents on behalf of their children – including trips and falls on school property, slips on icy approaches to classrooms and injuries sustained from faulty school equipment. One claim revolved around the incorrect application of first aid which resulted in a child suffering from painful skin blistering.
The education authority in Cardiff received the highest number of school injury compensation claims between 2008 and 2013, with 74 of these being successful. Newport local council paid out £248,131 over the period in respect of 44 successful compensation claims for injuries at school, while the local authority in Rhondda Cynon Taf had the highest average settlement value of £18,993 per claim.
A spokesperson for the education authorities said that parents were being encouraged to claim compensation for injuries at school by lawyers offering “contingency fee” injury claims, but one mother disagreed – telling the BBC that she only made a claim on behalf of her son who suffered an injury due to a faulty school gate to get the school to acknowledge that the gate was faulty and getting the hazard fixed to prevent other children from suffering an injury.
Owen Hathway – NUT Cymru´s policy officer – also commented on the volume of school injury compensation claims seen in Wales. He commented that if councils failed to invest in making schools safe, and allowed children to be taught in dilapidated buildings, then it was inevitable that children would be injured in avoidable accidents.
Best Injury Claims Footnote: Accidents will happen when groups of young children are together and, if your child is injured in an accident at school, you are only entitled to make school injury compensation claims if it can be established that your child´s injury was avoidable and attributable to negligence.
Any amount of compensation that a claim is settled for has to be approved by a judge before the compensation is paid (even if tour claim is resolved without a court hearing), and the compensation funds are then held in trust by the court your child reaches eighteen years of age.
Changes to personal injury claims procedures introduced on 1st August 2013 will speed up compensation settlements in claims with a value of up to £25,000.
The second of two changes to the Civil Procedure Rules took effect on 1st August 2013, and whereas the changes to the personal injury claims procedures in April of this year took away some of the benefits of making “Contingency Fee” compensation claims, the most recent changes should allow claimants to receive their compensation settlements within a shorter time frame.
The new procedures will see the length of time negligent parties and their insurance companies have to acknowledge “Letters of Claim” reduced to one day from twenty-one days, and the number of days available for them to conduct their own investigations into a claim reduced from ninety days to thirty days (forty days in the event of a compensation claim for an accident at work).
The aim of the new procedures is to reduce the costs of pursuing a claim for personal injury compensation when the value of the claim is less than £25,000 and when liability is not disputed. Any negligent party or insurance company who fails to adhere to these guidelines will not be able to take advantage of the Ministry of Justice Claims Portal and will face higher costs in defending the claim.
There are numerous exceptions to the new Civil Procedure Rules and there will be no change to the personal injury claims procedures in the following events:-
If an injury has been sustained due to the negligence of a private individual – for example if a homeowner has damaged the pavement outside their house over which you have tripped and fallen
If the injury which is being claimed for is an acquired disease either at work (for example COPD due to your working environment) or a place of public access (for example food poisoning in a restaurant)
If an injury has been sustained in an accident or scenario involving more than one party – for example a car accident in which more than one person was to blame
If an injury was sustained in an accident for which you were partly to blame or if your injury was exacerbated due to your own lack of care (also known as “Contributory Negligence”).
If a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition was due to medical negligence – either at a hospital or in private practice such as at the dentist
If you have developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos, or if you are claiming on behalf of an individual who has died due to mesothelioma cancer
If you have sustained an injury due to the negligence of a party who is uninsured, insolvent or untraceable – such as if you are injured in a hit and run accident.
The changes apply to injuries which have been sustained or diagnosed in England or Wales from 1st August onwards, and do not affect the length of time you have after an injury has been discovered in which to claim personal injury compensation – currently three years in the UK.
Should you require further information about how the changes to the personal injury claims procedures may affect you in your particular circumstances, you are advised to speak with a personal injury lawyer at the earliest opportunity.
Work injury settlements for teachers have increased by almost 24 percent according to figures released for 2012 by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).
The total amount of compensation recovered for teachers who sustained avoidable injuries at school in 2012 is estimated to be in excess of £25 million after the NASUWT revealed the total value of work injury settlements for teachers paid to their members exceeded £15.6 million.
The two smaller teaching unions – Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) – are believed to have each obtained around £5 million for its members in compensation for teachers injured at work in preventable accidents.
The largest individual teachers work injury settlement amounted to £382,930, and was paid to a teacher from the north-east who had to abandon his career after developing complex regional pain syndrome due to a pupil slamming his arm in a filing cabinet drawer.
Other significant work injury settlements for teachers included a special school teacher (£279,381) who suffered a back injury and emotional trauma after falling from a minibus and a technology teacher (£240,000) who developed asthma and sinusitis due to working in a poorly ventilated workshop for ten years.
Commenting on the size of the work injury settlements for teachers awarded in 2012, Chris Keates – NASUWT general secretary – said “Behind every one of these cases is a person who has been damaged physically or mentally. The distress and pressure of the incident to the individual teacher and their family has often been compounded by years of legal action and court proceedings before any award is made. While compensation is important, it can never make up for the fact that many of these teachers suffer permanent physical and mental injury and often cannot continue in their chosen career.”
A school crossing guard, who was knocked over by a hit and run driver while helping children cross the road, has settled her hit and run compensation claim with the driver´s insurers.
Forty-nine year old Karen Littler from Wigan in Lancashire was hit by the Honda Insight driven by Ceris Lovett while she was helping children cross the road outside their school in Ashton-in-Makerfield in March 2012.
Rather than checking to see if Karen was alright, Lovett drove off and was pursued by a motorist who had witnessed the accident. The motorist was able to record Lovett´s number plate and informed Greater Manchester Police.
Karen was taken by ambulance to Wigan Infirmary, where she received professional medical attention for bruising down the left-hand side of her body. She returned to work as a lollipop lady soon after, but continued to experience confidence issues when walking into the road to stop oncoming traffic.
Lovett was arrested by Greater Manchester Police and convicted of driving without care and attention. However, despite their client´s conviction for the offence, Karen received no joy in pursuing a hit and run compensation claim directly from Lovett´s car insurance company.
Eventually Karen sought professional legal assistance and legal proceedings were issued – at which point Lovett´s car insurance company made an offer of settlement for Karen´s hit and run compensation claim for an undisclosed amount, which was accepted on advice from Karen´s lawyer.
A mother of two, who developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy after she tripped over a wheelchair strap and dislocated her finger when she fell, has been awarded £800,000 compensation for tripping at school in an out-of-court settlement.
Julie Anne Huddart (49) tripped over the strap as she was trying to move the empty wheelchair at the school in which she worked as a teaching assistant near her home in Chorley, Lancashire. In addition to dislocating her finger, Julie Anne sustained an elbow injury which resulted in a malfunction of the nervous system that causes pain and swelling.
In her claim for compensation for tripping at school, Julie Anne alleged that she had been left in constant pain due to her accident, with severely restricted movement down the left side of her body. Due to her fall at the school, Julie Anne has been unable to work since the accident in 2003 and is now dependent on the care of her husband.
Lancashire County Council – Julie Anne´s employers – initially contested her claim for tripping and falling at school, but eventually admitted liability and worked out a settlement of compensation for tripping at school which will see Julie Anne receive an award of £800,000. Lancashire County Council were also considered liable for Julie Anne´s legal costs, which amounted to a further £140,000.
An increasing number of slips and trips in the classroom, physical assaults on teachers and instances where schools and local authorities have failed to comply with their legal responsibilities relating to health, safety and employment, led to teachers injury compensation exceeding 25 million pounds in 2011.
Exactly how much compensation for teachers injuries was paid out last year is not yet known, as only two of the three largest teaching unions have so far revealed what their members received ahead of their respective Easter conferences.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers accounted for 17.9 million pounds of teachers injury compensation, while the National Union of Teachers annually assists teachers in the UK with compensation claims totalling more than 10 million pounds in value.
Among some of the highlighted teacher injury compensation claims was a case where a former teacher received 220,000 pounds after contracting mesothelioma cancer due to exposure to asbestos in the classroom and a settlement of 222,215 pounds was paid to a teacher who suffered permanent brain damage after being attacked by a special needs student.
Psychological injuries attributable to stress and employment disputes were also a major contributory factor to the total amount paid in teachers injury compensation in 2011, with the majority of teachers injury compensation claims being settled by negotiation via legal channels rather than through the courts or an employment tribunal.
Union leaders admitted that the payments of teachers injury compensation could be perceived as a waste of public money but blamed school heads and the education authorities for failing to protect their staff. Chris Keates – General Secretary of the NASUWT union was quoted as saying “Employers who deliberately flout the law are not only causing distress, ill-health and job losses, they are costing taxpayers millions of pounds”.
A student, who was rushed to hospital after collapsing mid-way through a game of high school American football, has been awarded 4.4 million dollars for traumatic brain injury compensation in an out of court settlement.
Scott Eveland was just eighteen years of age when, on 14th September 2007, he collapsed by the side of the field on which he was playing as linebacker for the Mission Hills High School Grizzlies. Scott was rushed to hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery to stop internal bleeding around his brain and, due to his injuries, is now confined to a wheelchair – only able to communicate through an adapted iPad.
Scott made a claim for traumatic brain injury compensation through his mother – Diana – alleging that he had been missing practice due to persistent headaches in the weeks leading up to his collapse, and had asked to sit out of the game in which he collapsed only moments before it had started due to him feeling unwell.
His injury compensation claim was supported by a teammate, who confirmed that the head coach of the American football team had ignored signs that Scott was in distress and forced him to play on. His teammate also testified in a deposition that just one week before the game, Scott had reported that he was suffering from frequent headaches to the team´s athletic trainer.
The agreement of traumatic brain injury compensation was made without court action, but also without admission of liability by the San Marcos Unified School District or Mission Hills High School.