Negligence: Premises Liability/Ceiling Screen/Head Injury - $200,000 Settlement

Injuries alleged: Closed-head injury

Name of case: Withheld

Tried before judge or jury: Mediation

Special damages:

$4,221, medical expenses

Amount of settlement

$200,000

Date: May 13, 1996

Highest offer.

$200,000

Insurance carrier: Jefferson Insurance

Attorney for plaintiff: Kenneth I. Kolpan, Boston

Attorney for defendant: Withheld

Other useful information:

On Sept. 3, 1994, the plaintiff, 49, attended a wedding at the defendant's premises, a local motel. The plaintiff was dancing with another guest when she was hit on the head by a screen which had fallen from the acoustical ceiling which was about eight feet high. The ceiling screen was a covering for a return of the HVAC system.

The president of the defendant corporation admitted that the defendant's employees were the only ones who had removed, cleaned and replaced ventilation screens at least annually and sometimes semi-annually prior to the incident. He also admitted that the screen fell because it was not secured property. The plaintiff's engineering expert was prepared to testify that the defendant violated several sections of the state building code in failing to provide safe equipment on its premises through its negligent maintenance, inspection, replacement, installation and cleaning of the HVAC system and screens in the wedding reception room.

After being hit on the head, the plaintiff became dizzy, disoriented and nauseous, and a bystander took the plaintiff to the restroom where she vomited. Witnesses were prepared to testify concerning these worrisome signs of a traumatic brain injury.  The plaintiff was taken to the emergency room of Beverly Hospital where she was diagnosed with a concussion.

Plaintiff continued to exhibit significant signs of a brain injury over time including  problems of speech production, memory, concentration, attention, photosensitivity, disorganization and fatigue.

The plaintiff had not been hospitalized overnight for her injury but was treated as an outpatient in the neurobehavioral unit of a teaching hospital. Plaintiff's treating physicians and specialists in traumatic brain injury were prepared to testify that the plaintiff's abnormal EEG and documented cognitive deficits on neuropsychological testing indicate that she has probably sustained microscopic axonal (brain tissue) injury.  The medical evidence, Attorney Kolpan argued, was objective and confirmatory evidence of the plaintiff’s brain injury. 

On the date of the incident, the plaintiff was the principal of two elementary schools, a noted author and educator who had appeared on television. She also taught graduate courses at a local university. The plaintiff went on sick leave for the academic year of the incident and then returned to work as a principal earning the same amount of salary as before the accident. The plaintiff remains under the care of a neuropsychologist for treatment of her ongoing cognitive deficits related to her head injury.

The defendant claimed that the plaintiff's alleged cognitive deficits were the result of a long-standing pre-existing depression for which the plaintiff had received and was currently receiving psychotherapy treatment. The case was settled after two days of mediation and approximately three weeks before trial. Though traumatic brain injuries are known as the hidden injury, Boston brain injury lawyer, Kenneth Kolpan, presented persuasive evidence of eyewitness accounts of plaintiff’s deficits, plaintiff’s reports of symptoms and objective medical evidence (abnormal EEG and neuropsychological testing).