Spinal Cord Injury - Articles

Victim to Receive $3 Million from 'Affluenza' Teen's Family

May 06, 2014

Sergio Molina, who was paralyzed last June after a teen drunk driver crashed his pickup truck into a small group of people helping the driver of a stalled vehicle on the side of the road in Texas, will receive $3 million from the teen's family, according to court documents.

In his criminal trial, attorneys for then 16-year-old Ethan Couch, the drunk driver, argued that he wasn't responsible for his actions due to a condition referred to as "affluenza," brought on by being spoiled by his wealthy parents. Couch received no jail time in connection with the crash, which killed four people and injured nine others, including Molina.

Couch was sentenced to probation and rehabilitation for his actions.

The Couch family agreed to a $3 million settlement this week with Molina, who is unable to move any of his limbs as a result of the accident.

The family has already reached out-of-court settlements with two other victims.

The remaining victims have indicated that they intend to pursue their cases through to trial.


NYC Train Derailment Victim Files Suit for $100M

April 09, 2014

A railroad employee who was paralyzed in a commuter train derailment in New York City has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the railroad.

The suit was filed by 39-year-old Samuel Rivera, a maintenance employee with Metro-North Railroad who, along with his 14-year-old son, was a passenger on the train when it derailed in the Bronx on December 1.

According to accident investigators, the train was traveling over 80 mph when it approached a curve with a speed limit of 30 mph and derailed. The accident left four people dead and at least 60 others injured.

Rivera was thrown into a wall of the train car when the train left the tracks. The train was not equipped with seat belts.

As a result of his injuries, Rivera is no longer able to move his legs and has only limited use of his arms.

Doctors say it is unlikely that he will ever walk again.


Judge Allows Suit Against Gun Maker to Move Forward

July 25, 2012

A judge in California reinstated a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Glock Inc. this week which had been filed by a police officer who was paralyzed after his 3-year-old shot him by accident.

Earlier this year, a Los Angeles judge dismissed a lawsuit, filed two years ago by Enrique Chavez, a Los Angeles police officer who claimed that his Glock 21 service pistol had too light a trigger pull and wasn't equipped with a grip safety, a device that attaches to a gun that requires deactivation before firing.

The California Second Court of Appeal reversed the lower court's dismissal on Tuesday, opining that a jury could find that a grip safety may have reduced the risk of an accidental discharge without affecting the gun's performance.

Chavez was driving his vehicle in 2006 when he was shot in the back by his 3-year-old son, who was playing with the gun after finding it in the back seat.


Construction Accident Victim Sent to Mexico Dies

January 04, 2012

A construction accident victim who was sent to Mexico by an Illinois hospital died on New Year's Day.

Officials say 21-year-old Quelino Ojeda was working at a construction site, when a fall injury caused him to be paralyzed from the neck down.

Ojeda was originally treated at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for injuries that resulted from the 20-foot fall, but was sent to Mexico after the hospital discovered he was working illegally in the U.S. at the time of his injury.

Ojeda was transferred to a hospital in Juchitan, Mexico, that was not equipped with the facilities necessary to care for a quadriplegic.


$15M Settlement for Atlanta Scaffolding Collapse

October 05, 2011

A $15 million settlement has been reached over a 2008 incident involving a scaffolding collapse at the Atlanta Botanical Garden that left one worker dead and another 18 injured, according to court documents.

The money will be paid to 15 of the 18 injured workers and to the estate of 56-year-old Angel Chupin, who was killed when a temporary platform collapsed at the facility's Canopy Walk in December 2008.

Some workers suffered serious brain and spinal cord injuries in the accident.

The agreement will settle several lawsuits, filed by workers against the Atlanta Botanical Garden and seven construction firms, alleging that the scaffolding was shoddily constructed.


1 Dead, 18 Injured in Car-School Bus Collision

February 03, 2011

The driver of a car involved in a collision with a school bus on Wednesday is dead and the bus driver is seriously injured.

The crash occurred Wednesday morning in Holiday, Florida, when a bus carrying students to Paul R. Smith Middle School crashed with a small Isuzu car, which was totaled in the collision. Seventeen students suffered minor injuries in the crash.

The driver of the Isuzu was transported to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

The bus driver, whose legs had been pinned under the steering column, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa with serious injuries.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.


Elevator Mechanic Gets $11.7 Million

December 30, 2010

An elevator mechanic received a jury award for $11.7 million this week, the largest personal injury settlement in Marin County history.

After three days' deliberation, the jury awarded the money to David Travis, who suffered a back injury in 2007 while employed as a construction worker at the site of an Extended Stay hotel in San Rafael.

While employed at the site, 38-year-old Travis, who is 6'1", was required to carry heavy tools and other equipment under scaffolding with clearance a foot lower than what is required under California law.

He allegedly hit his head on a number of occasions, causing him to suffer herniated discs in his neck and back that compressed his spinal cord.

After only two months on the job, Travis suffered near-paralysis, according to expert testimony.

The defendants, Bison Builders of Spokane, Washington, and Kenyon Plastering, an Arizona contractor, argued that Travis' condition was exacerbated because he failed to seek medical attention for two months after sustaining the injury.


Three Injured in Medical Helicopter Crash

December 20, 2010

A medical helicopter lost power and crashed shortly after takeoff in La Monte, Missouri, on Sunday, injuring three people on board.

The pilot of the Staff for Life helicopter managed to avoid crashing into a holding area containing jet fuel and propane tanks, thereby preventing a much greater disaster.

The pilot, a flight nurse, and a paramedic aboard the helicopter were transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening spinal injuries. They are listed in serious condition.

There were no patients aboard the helicopter at the time of the crash.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.


12 Year Old Critically Injured in Amusement Park Accident

August 19, 2010

An employee at a Wisconsin amusement park was charged Tuesday with reckless endangerment after a 12-year-old girl was injured on a ride he was operating, police say.

Teagan Marti of Parkland, Florida, was rushed to the University of Wisconsin hospital after she fell close to 100 feet from the "Terminal Velocity" ride at Extreme World Amusements, a park in Lake Delton, Wisconsin.

She is listed in critical condition. Marti suffered brain swelling, spinal injuries, pelvic fractures, and liver and spleen lacerations, doctors say.

The ride's operator is 33-year old Charles A. Carnell, who reportedly told officers that he became distracted and failed to wait for a signal from another employee that the ride's safety net was in position.


Sacramento Jury Awards Record $24.3 Million to Girl Run Over by Dad's Truck

March 09, 2010

An Oregon girl whose truck-driver father accidentally ran her over with his big rig has won $24.3 million in damages from the Portland company that a Sacramento judge found legally responsible for her injuries.

The personal-injury award handed down by a Superior Court jury last Friday to Diana Yuleidy Loza-Jimenez is the largest in Sacramento County history, according to the local bar association.

In a court-trial decision returned Dec. 14, Judge David W. Abbott said the firm that hired Simon Loza Mejia, Freeway Transport Inc., was liable for the girl's injuries.

"Defendant was listed on the shipper's bill of lading as the carrier," Abbott wrote. "Defendant insured the load. Defendant guaranteed delivery of the load."

Six years ago, Loza-Jimenez, now 14, joined her father, mother and other family members on a Thanksgiving long-haul trip from their home in Hermiston, Ore., to Bakersfield, where they visited relatives and picked up a load of produce to take back to Oregon.

On their way home, they stopped Nov. 27, 2004, for a break near Mount Shasta. When Loza Mejia got back inside the truck and pulled away, his daughter was still outside and got caught under the truck's rear wheels.

The girl suffered severe injuries to her entire lower body that will require an untold number of future surgeries, according to evidence presented in the lawsuit. Along with the prospect of hip replacement and other procedures, the injuries also will "affect her private functions" for the rest of her life, plaintiff's lawyer said.

Before the damages phase of the trial, the judge ruled from the bench to exclude the jury from knowing it was the girl's father who accidentally drove over her. The plaintiff's lawyers argued it would have unduly prejudiced the panel.

The family's lawyer said Monday the father-daughter relationship was "legally irrelevant."

"It was no different than if anybody else, a complete stranger, had been injured," he said. "That was the correct legal ruling."

An attorney for the defense said he did not know how or if the knowledge that Loza Mejia was Loza-Jimenez's father would have affected the jury.

"I have to believe it would have made some difference," he said.

Once the judge made his liability decision nearly three months ago, the case went to a jury to decide damages. On Friday, the 10-woman, two-man panel, following a 13-day trial, came back with its award. The money broke down to $2.2 million for the girl's past medical expenses, including $1.6 million in costs incurred at Shriner's Children's Hospital, plus $2.1 million for future economic damages, $8 million for past pain and mental suffering and $12 million for such future noneconomic losses.

"We were thrilled to see that the jury appreciated the full magnitude of Diana's injuries," the plaintiff's attorney said. "She faces at least a dozen future surgeries and a life of serious disrepair. She's going to be going through the worst ahead of her."

The defense team argued that Freeway Transport wasn't responsible in the case because the company only brokered her father's truck deal to haul the produce.

They claimed the defendant firm was not the actual long-haul carrier, even though they conceded that the Portland produce company that contracted for Loza Mejia's Bakersfield pickup -- United Salad -- is owned and operated by the same people who run Freeway Transport.

In a pre-trial brief filed last year, the defense lawyers said Loza-Jimenez was not a member of the general public eligible for protection under interstate transport regulations because her father took her along for the trip without Freeway Transport's knowledge.

"Loza and his wife were responsible for the well-being of their daughter and owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect, control and supervise her," the defense papers said. "This sad and unfortunate accident simply did not arise out of any duty owed by Freeway Transport."

An attorney for the defense said Monday they asked the jury to limit the award to Loza-Jimenez to "something around $8 million."

"I rather expected they'd come in probably above that, but not a whole lot -- maybe in the $12 million, $14-15 million range," he said in an interview Monday.

"It was a very bad injury. It's a sad story for the girl," he said.

Plaintiff's attorney said he filed the case in Sacramento because Freeway Transport listed the capital as a licensed place of business. He said the girl's father was devastated by the accident. He now works as a mechanic on a dairy farm in Oregon, according to his attorney.

"The idea that a horrific injury like this occurs, that is otherwise preventable, and it happens to your own daughter -- it's unimaginable," he said.

Attorneys for both sides are negotiating a final disposition, but the defense attorney said Freeway Transport is not planning to appeal the outcome.


Worker Killed by Flying Truck Wheel

September 09, 2009

A woman was killed on Interstate 80 Tuesday after being hit by a wheel that had come loose off a passing tractor-trailer.

The woman, 53-year-old Robyn Pittman, was a roller operator for Western Engineering Company, said state patrol investigators. She was standing in the interstate's median with other workers when she was hit.

Another worker was also hit by a wheel. Scott Herdt, 45, was taken to a hospital in serious condition with head and back injuries. The two were standing near a Nebraska Department of Roads vehicle when two wheels came loose. An NDOR worker was sitting inside the vehicle when one of the wheels hit the driver's-side door. The worker was not seriously hurt.

Investigators said the rig, which was a Western Engineering Company vehicle pulling a belly dump truck, was headed east when a set of wheels came off the trailer. The rig's driver wasn't aware of the problem and continued until Exit 95 to dump the truck's load. On his way back past the scene, workers noticed the missing wheels and radioed the driver to stop.

Troopers inspected the rig and found 16 violations.

The driver, 30-year-old Geary Ussery, of North Platte, was cited for the violations.


Injured Dallas Cowboys Staffers Sue Over Practice Facility Collapse

August 26, 2009

Aug. 26--The Canadian company responsible for building the Dallas Cowboys practice facility conspired with a Las Vegas consulting firm to cover up the giant tentlike structure's design flaws, two team employees alleged in lawsuits Tuesday.

Rich Behm, a scouting aide, and Joe DeCamillis, the special teams coach, were the two most seriously injured when the 6-year-old facility collapsed May 2 and are the first to sue.

Their cases, filed in Dallas County courts, seek unspecified damages from facility designer-manufacturer Cover-All Building Systems; its U.S. sales-and-construction subsidiary, Summit Structures; JCI, the Vegas consulting firm; and other companies that played a role in erecting the structure. The Cowboys were not named as defendants in the suits.

The conspiracy claims may draw strength from comments made to The Dallas Morning News in late May by Jeffrey Galland, JCI's former engineering director. He said he laid out a plan over a year ago to reinforce the facility's frame with "a significant amount of steel."

The builder followed much of the plan, Galland said, but not all of it.

"There were some things that weren't done that we hoped would be done," he said. He would not elaborate and said he didn't recall whether he had been particularly nervous about fixes that weren't made.

Galland said the builder was performing renovations under warranty to the Cowboys and didn't want to pay for some work.

He now runs another consulting firm in Las Vegas and did not respond to interview requests Tuesday. He lacks an engineering degree and served federal prison time for his role in a violent drug trafficking ring, as The News previously reported.

JCI head Scott Jacobs has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Cover-All's lawyer declined to comment Tuesday. The firm is based in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, and its affiliate, Summit, is based in Pennsylvania.

Summit hired JCI after a building-collapse expert told the Cowboys that its facility had serious design problems. That led to repairs in summer 2007, which the team believed were "a temporary fix," the lawsuits say.

They allege that the builder and JCI "were to design and install a permanent fix after the 2007 football season was over" but did not. Instead, the companies "agreed to hide and conceal the practice facility's shortcomings."

A prominent Dallas trial attorney represents both Behm, who is permanently paralyzed below the waist, and DeCamillis, who suffered a broken neck but escaped paralysis.

Their lawsuits are based on documents that Summit and other companies provided to the plaintiffs on the condition of confidentiality.

Their lawyer said he had seen no indication that the Cowboys share blame for the disaster. He also said that Texas workers' compensation law prevents him from suing the team.

Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said Tuesday that he would not discuss the suits' allegations. Nor would he say whether the team plans legal action against the builder.

Behm and DeCamillis are not suing Dallas-based Manhattan Construction, either. It was the general contractor for the practice facility, which was built in 2003, and for the team's new stadium in Arlington.

"I need more information" before deciding whether to add Manhattan and other companies to the list of defendants, their attorney said. Manhattan executives have said their role in building the tent was extremely limited.

The victims' attorney said they were not planning to sue the city of Irving. The facility's defects probably weren't the sort that a building inspector could be expected to catch, he said. And the city's record-keeping failures -- it didn't keep a copy of the original engineering plans -- didn't contribute to the collapse.

Nathan Stobbe, who heads Cover-All and Summit, has tried to focus attention on the thunderstorm that hit Irving on May 2. However, no other structures in the area suffered major damage that day.

Stobbe has also defended his company's commitment to safety. Yet another of its big tentlike structures collapsed in early 2003, six weeks after opening and immediately after a snowstorm in Philadelphia.

The Cowboys hired Summit shortly thereafter, despite knowing about that collapse. A Pennsylvania judge ruled in 2006 that design and construction flaws caused it.

The suits filed Tuesday also target other companies involved in building the Irving facility in 2003. They are accused of negligence but not conspiracy.

One of those defendants is in the Dallas area: Burleson-based Wrangler Concrete Construction, which built the facility's foundation. It is accused of putting rebar "too close together."

That allegedly led workers from Minnesota-based subcontractor Midwest Building and Fencing to make mistakes when drilling holes in the foundation and attaching steel to it.

Wrangler co-owner Brenda Robertson declined to comment on the claims. She said Manhattan Construction hired her company as a subcontractor based on its solid track record.

Midwest Building declined to comment. A company official who would not identify herself directed a reporter to call "our corporate office," but she would not provide contact information and hung up.

The lawsuits do not specify how much money Behm and DeCamillis are seeking. Their attorney said he would rely on "whatever a jury thinks is fair and reasonable."


Hazing Victim's Parents Sue School

August 20, 2009

The parents of a Chicago prep school student are suing the school for an alleged hazing incident that left their son a quadriplegic, their lawyer says.

Christopher Connolly was a freshman on the St. Ignatius junior varsity water polo team in 2007 when he struck his head on the bottom of the school's swimming pool and fractured his vertebrae, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

The parents' attorney says Connolly was ordered to dive into the pool by one of the coaches after an assistant coach told some classmates to throw pool equipment at him.

The suit says Connolly was referred to by the derogatory nickname "Flounder."

Now 17 years old, Connolly has regained some use of his arms and hands, his parents' lawyer says.

The negligence suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeks undisclosed monetary damages from St. Ignatius.

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