Daily News ~ OPOLAW Injury Blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Daily News

DAILY NEWS - By staff writer Karen Maeshiro Palmdale - A major supermarket chain and a shopping center management company have agreed to pay nearly $35 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of an 11-year-old girl who suffered a severe brain injury when a rusting light pole in the parking lot fell and hit her during a November 2001 windstorm. As part of the settlement, the market and the management company have agreed to pay $15 million to purchase annuities that for the rest of her life will pay $60,498 a month - adjusted at 3 percent a year for inflation - to Courtney Triana, who remains hospitalized at a rehabilitation hospital. "She is improving to a point where she is trying to communicate, trying to mouth words. She recognizes friends, family and me. She tracks people around the room," said Gregory Owen, one of the family's attorneys. "She is now able to take her right hand and push it down on the bed to lift herself up if she is uncomfortable." The settlement also calls for $4.9 million to be paid to Courtney's parents and for $5.65 million to be deposited into an account whose funds will not be released until she turns 18 or upon extraordinary circumstances that require judge's approval. Another $100,000 will go toward friends who were walking with Courtney when the 40-foot-tall light pole hit her, and $1.5 million will pay off medical bills. A total of $7.5 million will go toward attorney fees, court records show. The monthly annuity payment is guaranteed for 20 years. Courtney was injured while walking with a friend's family across the parking lot at the marketing the 2600 block of East Palmdale Boulevard. The pole had rusted at its base, where it had snapped, her attorney said. A woman sitting in her parked vehicle told deputies the pole had been swaying back and forth in the high winds. The woman said she heard a sound like wood snapping, then saw the pole fall toward the children. After the accident, the supermarket was closed and the parking lot emptied because other poles were swaying in the wind. Mobile high-intensity lights were set in place the following evening and the old poles replaced. The pole shattered Courtney's skull on the right side, leaving a large deformation and severe permanent brain damage, the lawsuit said. "She's doing well enough to where she is ready to come home, " said Owen. "And now that the case has resolved, her parents will be in a position to bring her home and give he the best medical care available." Courtney receives round-the-clock nursing care at a rehabilitation hospital in the San Fernando Valley, Owen said. Two months ago, Courtney attended her younger brother’s first communion religious ceremony in Palmdale, sitting in the front row in a wheelchair. “It was so important to Mom and Dad for Courtney to be there. They obtained permission from the doctors and the hospital, and with a nurse accompanying her, allowed her to go, Owen said. “When the music started, she was sitting there trying to sing along. It made everyone very happy.” Courtney attends school every day at the hospital, Owen added. A meteorological expert hired by Owen said the highest gust that day at the time of the accident was 58 mph. Air traffic controllers said wind gusts were clocked at up to 68 mph that day at Air Force Plant 42.

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