On March 27, 2013 a federal court jury in Bridgeport, CT returned a $41,750,000 verdict for a young woman who, after being bitten by an infected tick on a school-sponsored trip to China, contracted encephalitis and now suffers neurological disabilities and cannot speak.
Cara Munn was just 15 when The Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Lakeville, CT brought her and more than a dozen other minors to a forested, mountainous region in the northeastern part of mainland China called Tianjin Province. The school trip leader planned to take the students hiking on a mountain in that region called Mt. Panshan. The itinerary for the trip, however, failed to notify Cara or her parents that they would be travelling outside of urban areas, and in fact advised the students that the trip would be limited to “three big cities.”
At the same time, a CDC Health Advisory consulted by school officials warned of a risk of Tick-Borne Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, Japanese Encephalitis, and a number of other possibly fatal insect-transmitted illnesses in and around the Mt. Panshan area. Despite the school’s actual knowledge of the risk, it failed to inform Cara or her parents of the presence of disease-infected insects, and it failed to ensure or even suggest that the minors in its care took basic safety precautions, such as using insect repellant, wearing proper clothing, staying out of the underbrush, and checking themselves for ticks.
The verdict will enable Cara to afford the support care she will need for the rest of her life, it will pay the substantial medical and therapy bills incurred by her and her family over the past five and a half years, and it is a recognition of the severity of her past and future suffering. It is hoped that the verdict will also persuade Hotchkiss and all schools who bring other people’s minor children overseas to do what is required to bring the children home safe.
Cara is represented, and the case was tried, by Antonio Ponvert III of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, CT, a firm that for more than 75 years has had the privilege of protecting the rights of injured children and adults. The verdict is thought to be the second largest in Connecticut State history.