Tampa Tribune - Tampa Jury Awards almost $5 Million Over Church Ski Trip Injury
Posted on Apr 11, 2011
TAMPA - A Hillsborough County jury has awarded almost $5 million to the family of a teen severely injured on a church ski trip.
The 14-year-old boy was a member of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz when he went on the church's annual trip to Beech Mountain, N.C., in December 2003. He had never skied before but his mother was assured he would receive instruction, said Damian Mallard, an attorney for the family.
Mallard said the church organizers didn't require instruction before allowing the teen to hit the slopes. The boy became disoriented and accidentally skied down an advanced slope, crashing into another skier at an estimated 55 mph.
The teen, who was not named in the lawsuit, suffered fractures to his spine. The injuries caused nerve damage to his left leg and left him with a permanent limp. His left foot does not function, Mallard said, and the muscles in his left leg have atrophied.
After a seven-day trial, the jury Tuesday found the church 95 percent responsible for the teen's injuries and his mother 5 percent responsible. That means the church must pay $4.75 million, Mallard said.
Brian McDougall, executive associate pastor of the 11,000-member church, said church officials would continue consulting with attorneys about what to do next.
"We do not agree with the verdict and know that important evidence was not heard by the jury," McDougall said today. "Idlewild has always maintained the highest safety standards in all our church activities.
"We have had thousands of people travel safely with us on hundreds of trips without an issue of this nature," he said.
Mallard said his clients no longer are members of the church and didn't want to comment.