Second Circuit Upholds Jury Verdict of $41.5 M Verdict To High School Student
On February 6, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit (which handles appeals from federal court trials in Connecticut and New York) upheld a jury verdict of $41.5 million to a then 15 year old female high student. The student's parents sued their daughter's private boarding High School for failing to warn of the dangers of being exposed to ticks during a class trip to China. There was evidence that the school's travel coordinator was made aware of the dangers presented by ticks in the remote mountainous area they were travelling to, including information from the U.S. government.
The young lady contracted a tick borne viral encephalitis (injury to the brain) after hiking up a forested mountain which resulted in numerous insect bites to her arm. No warnings or bug spray were given out to the students. She became itchy with swelling during the hike and days later was taken to a local hospital and then transferred to a Beijing hospital where she developed severe illness and partial paralysis. As a result the student suffered permanent brain damage affecting both cognition and motor control. Her condition is expected to worsen over the balance of her life.
Based on the opinion of Connecticut's highest state Court that there is a duty to warn about the risk of a serious tick borne disease imposed on the organizer of a trip; that an award of $41.5 million fell within the range of a just verdict; and,that the injury was foreseeable the Second Circuit refused to overturn the jury verdict. The award allocated $10M for a lifetime of lost wages and medical expenses and $31.5M for pain and suffering. Munn v The Hotchkiss School, 2018 WL 722474
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