A jury in Cook County Illinois recently awarded the biggest verdict against ever against the city of Chicago in a personal injury case. Tierney Darden, a 26-year-old from Vernon Hills, was left paralyzed from the waist down after a bus shelter at O'Hare International Airport collapsed amid a storm. Judge Clare McWilliams announced the unprecedented verdict in a downtown Chicago courtroom, which concluded a seven-day trial that included four hours of jury deliberation. The plaintiff's attorney expressed the grateful feelings that his client and her family felt after enduring a truly devastating injury two years earlier.
In August 2015, Darden, her mother and her sister were standing outside Terminal 2 at the airport awaiting transportation. The three women had been shopping for bridesmaid dresses in Minneapolis. A severe storm began which caused the pedestrian bus shelter structure to become dislodged and to fall on Darden. Her spinal cord was fractured, leading to her partial paralysis. Darden, who at the time was a dance student at Truman College, has since lived with her father who has assisted with her care.
After an investigation, it was determined that the shelter unit was missing bolts necessary for securement, had significantly corroded parts, and needed other maintenance work. The trial was necessary solely to determine an accurate award for damages, as the city of Chicago had conceded their liability earlier.
Prior to the trial, the city made a $22 million offer to settle the matter; however, the plaintiff determined it was insufficient and chose to proceed to a jury trial. WGN TV in Chicago reported that a city spokesperson felt the verdict was disappointing and that they are assessing other legal options available.
Summary of Illinois Personal Injury Statute
The state employs a system of modified comparative fault. Plaintiffs are barred from recovery if their percentage of fault exceeds 50% of the total; otherwise, the award is reduced by the percentage of fault that they contributed. Percentages of fault are calculated based on contributions to the injury from all individuals involved regardless of whether they are a party to the action. There are no limits (caps) on recoverable damages because they were deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Injured plaintiffs may pursue recovery for the following damages:
- Pain and suffering (past & future)
- Losses of normalcy or disability (past & future)
- Deformity or disfigurement
- Medical expenses (past & future)
- Losses of earnings (past & future)
- Worsening of an existing condition