The City of Chicago has paid $115 million in settlement to a woman who was paralyzed from the waist down by a falling pedestrian shelter at O’Hare International Airport. This settlement ends the city’s challenge to a jury’s award of $148 million to the woman. The city and its insurance carrier will pay Plaintiff Tierney Darden the $115 million rather than continuing to challenge the damages verdict handed down by a Cook County jury in August. Lead Plaintiffs counsel Patrick A. Salvi said in a statement:
I believe anyone who sat through the trial would not find the award to be excessive. Although we believed the verdict would have been upheld on appeal, when weighing the risks and benefits, we felt this was a fair compromise. Darden has a long, difficult life ahead of her; these funds will help her obtain all the necessary medical care for the remaining decades of her life.
Ms. Darden, 24, was waiting to be picked up from O’Hare with her mother and sister on an August 2015 afternoon when a storm gust loosened a pedestrian shelter that weighed more than 750 pounds. The shelter came loose and fell on Darden, severing her spinal cord. Ms. Darden was a dancer and student at Truman College when she was paralyzed. The lawsuit, which named both the City of Chicago and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation as Defendants, involved claims for negligence and willful and wanton conduct.
It was determined the shelter that caused the incident had missing bolts. However, a subsequent investigation at O’Hare found other shelters also had missing bolts, as well as corroded parts or broken brackets. In early 2017, the City of Chicago admitted wrongdoing in the accident, and in August, the case was tried before a jury on damages. On Aug. 23, following a 10-day trial, the jury awarded $148 million to Ms. Darden, which appears to have been the largest personal injury verdict on record in the state of Illinois.
Following the trial, the City of Chicago filed post-trial motions arguing that the verdict was excessive. However, after an “extensive mediation,” Ms. Darden’s lawyers and the city’s insurance carrier agreed to the $115 million settlement. Ms. Darden is represented by Patrick A. Salvi, Jeffrey J. Kroll, Tara R. Devine, Patrick A. Salvi II, and Eirene N. Salvi of Salvi Schostok & Pritchard. The case is Tierney Darden v. City of Chicago et al., (case number 2015 L 008311), in the Circuit Court of the Cook County, Illinois.