BRIDGEPORT, March 27, 2013 - A federal jury today awarded $41.75 million to a girl who contracted a life-altering disease while on a school trip to China.
The girl, Cara Munn of New York City, was a ninth grader at The Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Lakeville, Conn., when she joined a school-supervised trip to China during the summer of 2007.
Prior to, and during the trip, the lawsuit alleges, the school failed to notify the girl or her family that it would be taking the students anywhere other than urban city centers or that that there was a risk of tick-borne diseases where the students would be travelling. The school also failed to ensure that the students take any precautions against disease-transmitting ticks, according to the suit. The school failed to advise the students to wear insect repellent, and it allowed them to walk through a densely wooded area called Mt. Panshan that was known to be a risk area for Tick-Borne Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, and several other tick- and insect-transmitted illnesses, the lawsuit says. As a result, Cara contracted Tick-Borne Encephalitis, which caused serious permanent injuries.
"Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care. The school should have been on notice that the Mt. Panshan area of China was an insect disease endemic area; but it failed to notify the students or their families that they would be going to Mt. Panshan, and it failed to ensure that anyone use repellent," said Atty. Antonio Ponvert III of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, CT, who is representing the girl and who tried the case.
The case lasted eight days, and the jury of two men and six women deliberated for about eight hours before returning their verdict.
"I hope that this case will help alert all schools who sponsor overseas trips for minors that they need to check the CDC for disease risks in the areas where they will be travelling, and that they must advise children in their care to use repelle nt and wear proper clothing when necessary," Ponvert said. "Cara's injuries were easily preventable."
Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder has offices in Bridgeport, New Haven and Danbury. The nationally known law firm has achieved record verdicts for people who suffer serious personal injuries or economic harm from medical malpractice, violation of their civil or constitutional rights, dangerous products, negligence, drunk drivers, corporate or governmental abuse and commercial misconduct. www.koskoff.com .