This week’s notable verdicts and settlements include: A St. Louis firefighter gets a $6.5 million settlement from the maker of an oxygen tank that failed to sound before running out of oxygen; a Louisiana woman who suffered a stroke after taking a doctor-prescribed diet drug wins maximum medical malpractice damages; and a Bronx, N.Y., jury issues a $9.9 million verdict against the city’s school board for the drowning death of a student.


Firefighter Receives Settlement in Oxygen-Tank Case

A firefighter received a $6.5 million settlement from a manufacturer after an emergency alarm on his breathing tank failed to sound before he ran out of oxygen while battling an eight-alarm fire. Mike LeBrun, a fire captain with 19 years of experience, sustained permanent brain damage and now has short-term memory problems. He is no longer able to be a firefighter. Le Brun was inside the burning building with a colleague, searching for a missing person, when both firefighters ran out of air. An alarm that sounds whenever a firefighter’s tank is low on oxygen never went off. LeBrun sued Mine Safety Appliances Co., the tank manufacturer, alleging that the breathing apparatus was defective because the bell was loose and that it should have had a backup device. Mine Safety added a backup warning to its alarm system in 1999, but conceded that it never made an effort to advise users of the problems with this piece of equipment. On July 19, the parties agreed to settle. LeBrun v. Mine Safety Appliances Co., No. 002-07860 (St. Louis, Mo., Cir. Ct.).

Plaintiff’s attorney: Jamie Lynn Boock, Simon, Lowe & Passanante, St. Louis.

Defense attorney: Dan G. Donahue, Herzog, Crebs & McGhee, St. Louis.


Woman Wins Claim for Diet Pill-Induced Stroke

A woman who suffered a stroke four days after being sold diet pills is entitled to more than $4,592,000 from the doctor who prescribed them, a Louisiana jury found. However, a statutory cap on medical malpractice damages will reduce the award to $500,000 plus legal interest. Lisa George went to Quick Trim Clinic in Baton Rouge, La., where Dr. N. James Doll sold her Didrex pills. Four days later, she suffered a stroke that left her with severe disabilities. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Doll, Quik Trim and Doll’s insurer, Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Co., arguing that the prescription was both stronger and in a greater dosage than allowed by the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners. The defendants argued that the drug was not the cause of the stroke. George v. Doll, No. 430149 Division F (East Baton Rouge Parish, La., Dist. Ct.).

Plaintiff’s attorneys: R. Bruce Macmurdo and Connie M. Aucoin, Law Office of R. Bruce Macmurdo, Baton Rouge, La.

Defense attorney: Janie Coles, Mang, Batiza, Gaudin, Godofsky and Penzato, Baton Rouge, La.


$9.9 Million Verdict in Student Drowning Case

The drowning death of a New York city student will cost the city’s school board $5,850,000 and Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom $4,030,000, according to a Bronx, N.Y., jury. The Board of Education and Dorney Park were assessed damages for the wrongful death of 14-year-old Daniel Maracallo, who drowned in the park’s wave pool during a school trip. Although his classmates shouted that he had gone under, Dorney Park lifeguards did not enter the pool. Maracallo was found the next day. His mother contended that the Board of Education had violated its own rules by taking students on a trip that had no educational value and by failing to have the required 10-1 student-to-adult ratio. She also contended that teachers left the park before Daniel’s body had been found. The Board of Education claimed that Maracallo’s death was caused by the failure of Dorney Park lifeguards to listen to his classmates. Dorney Park settled for a confidential amount prior to the June 26 verdict, which also found Maracallo to be 2 percent liable. Maracallo v. Board of Education of the City of New York, No. 8746/95 (Bronx Co., N.Y., Sup. Ct.).

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Thomas A. Moore, Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore, New York.

Defense attorney: John D. Paterniti, assistant corporate counsel, New York.