A teenager who was injured by a kicked ball while at school will collect $710,000 from two settlements in the case, his attorneys report.
Jason Tuttle and Katie King of Everett Gaskins Hancock report that their client, David A. Miller III, sustained serious eye injuries during the incident, which occurred at a Wake County high school on the final day of the school year. Two gym classes and a strength training class had combined, leaving close to 100 high school students in the same gymnasium for “free play.”
Miller was sitting in the bleachers when a fellow student kicked a ball that hit him in the face and broke his glasses, with fragments of one of the lenses rupturing his eye.
King said that her client, who was 15 at the time, was left with 20/400 vision, although corrective measures have allowed him to recover much of his sight so he can read and drive.
“He wears a couple different lenses, a scleral lens which basically provides the surface to his eye that is now missing and then he wears a contact lens,” King said. “He also wears glasses with a prism lens that helps him be able to focus his eye.”
Miller’s guardian ad litem and father contended that the school had been negligent because student testimony indicated that teachers were distracted by a laptop rather than circulating around the room to monitor students. They also introduced testimony from an administrator who said that multiple classes shouldn’t have been combined without a divider in the room.
King said there was about $20,000 in medical bills with another $100,000 in future expenses expected. She noted that Miller, previously an avid lacrosse player, no longer engaged in the sport because issues with depth perception made it difficult.
After more than a year of litigation, the matter was resolved by two settlements, with $625,000 coming from the board and another $85,000 coming from an insurance company representing the student who had kicked the ball.
“This was really a case about pain and suffering and how this affected a teenager’s quality of life moving forward,” King said.
David Noland of Tharrington Smith represented the board of education and John Honeycutt of Yates McLamb Weyher represented the defendant minor. Noland declined comment, and Honeycutt did not return a call requesting comment.
King said that the school had argued that Miller was looking at his phone when the accident occurred, but one of the teachers testified that the kids had been instructed that they could sit in the bleachers and that Miller was acting reasonably according to those instructions.
“One of the biggest hurdles for us was the contributory negligence issue,” King said. “It was initially asserted by all defendants.”
SETTLEMENT REPORT – NEGLIGENCE
Amount: $710,000 ($625,000 from the school board and $85,000 from minor defendant)
Injuries alleged: Eye injuries
Case name: Benjamin E. Thompson, III, as guardian ad litem for David A. Miller, III; David A. Miller, II, individually vs. Cole Barillaro, a minor; Wake County Board of Education; Robert Schoonover, in his individual capacity; Erica Grunder, in her individual capacity; and Joseph Kilby, in his individual capacity
Court: Wake County
Case No.: 20 CVS 3352
Mediator: Mike McDaniel
Date of settlement: July 1
Special damages: Tri-Care lien in the amount of $19,750.21
Most helpful experts: Dr. Melinda Campbell of Raleigh (liability), and Julie Sawyer-Little of Apex (life care planner)
Insurance carrier: Liberty Mutual for Wake County Board of Education and State Farm for minor defendant
Attorneys for plaintiffs: Jason Tuttle and Katie King of Everett Gaskins Hancock in Raleigh
Attorneys for defendants: David Noland of Tharrington Smith for Wake County Board of Education and John Honeycutt of Yates McLamb Weyher for minor defendant