Rather than continue to contest a record $148 million verdict, the city of Chicago has agreed to settle for $115 million with a dancer who was left paralyzed when strong winds crashed a pedestrian shelter on her more than two years ago at O’Hare International Airport.
On Jan. 16, attorneys with the firm of Salvi, Shostok & Pritchard, of Chicago, announced they had agreed, on behalf of plaintiff Tierney Darden to the settlement with the city. The release from the Salvi firm noted the settlement still is believed to have set the record for largest settlement ever for a lone personal injury victim in Cook County.
A Cook County jury had rendered the initial verdict in August 2017, ordering the city to pay Darden $148 million, after agreeing the shelter had fallen because workers at O’Hare had failed to properly maintain the structure.
Darden had filed suit in 2015, in the months after the incident that severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the waist down.
According to that lawsuit, Darden, then 24, was waiting outside Terminal 2 at O’Hare on Aug. 2, 2015, with her mother and sister, then 19, after returning from Minneapolis, where they had been shopping for bridesmaid dresses for an upcoming wedding.
A storm arose as they waited for their ride, and the wind from the storm sent the 750-pound pedestrian shelter onto Darden.
Darden had been a dancer and student at Truman College at the time of the accident.
Her attorneys said an investigation revealed bolts had been missing from the shelter, contributing to the accident. Her attorneys said later investigations revealed similar maintenance problems with other shelters at O’Hare, as well.
Following the verdict, the city’s lawyers filed motions, asking the court to revisit the verdict, which they called excessive.
Instead of hashing it out in court, however, Darden’s lawyers and the city’s legal team hashed out a settlement, slicing Darden’s recovery by about 22 percent, but preventing the payout from being delayed any longer or jeopardizing Darden’s payment further.
Darden lawyer Patrick Salvi said in a prepared statement the main sticking point surrounded the city’s assertion the jury had awarded far too much for Darden’s future medical expenses, granting $32 million, while the Salvi firm’s “life care plan” proposal came to just $15 million.
“Although we believed the verdict would have been upheld on appeal, when weighing the risks and benefits, we felt this was a fair compromise,” Salvi said in the statement. “Tierney 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.”
Salvi Schostok noted in its release the city “was insured up to $500 million for any incidents occurring at O’Hare.”
The city was represented in the action by the firms of Williams & Gundlach LLC and Dentons US LLP, each of Chicago.