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A federal jury has ordered The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach to pay a South Carolina woman $847,000 for negligence in a manicure that caused a severe infection in her thumb that required two surgeries. The Fort Lauderdale jury Thursday found that a beautician’s errors and unsanitary conditions at the hotel spa led to a staph infection in the woman’s thumb. She was left with permanent partial disability after the infection persisted over a period of several months, and at one point she required an eight-day hospitalization. Kristy Kay, the hotel’s director of legal services, said The Breakers was “shocked” by the verdict and “fully intends” to appeal. “We have an award-winning spa,” she said. “This is a perfect example of how illogical and unpredictable a jury can be.” Plaintiffs Julie Lofink, a retired nurse, and her husband, Walter, a retired ironworker, were represented in the suit by attorney Marc Brumer, a partner at Brumer & Brumer in Miami. Counsel for The Breakers was attorney Kathryn Tignor, a partner at Adams Coogler Watson Merkel Barry & Kellner in West Palm Beach. In its verdict, the jury awarded Mrs. Lofink $29,267 for medical expenses and $797,267 for pain and suffering. It awarded Mr. Lofink $50,000 for loss of consortium. The Lofinks were guests at the historic Palm Beach luxury resort in September 2001 when Mrs. Lofink went for a manicure that was part of the golf package they had purchased. She complained of pain in her right thumb during the procedure and, shortly after returning home to Aiken, S.C., sought medical treatment after the pain increased. Despite an initial diagnosis of arthritis, swelling and continued pain indicated an infection. The thumb was lanced and drained but the condition was unabated over the following months despite a regime of antibiotics. In April 2002, she underwent surgery as an outpatient. Brumer filed the negligence claim in June 2002, alleging that the hotel failed to sanitize its manicure instruments and therefore caused the injuries. Damages sought included medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering, as well as Mr. Lofink’s loss of his wife’s consortium. Brumer said that he brought the action in federal court out of concern that local pride in the prestigious resort might result in hometown favoritism by a Palm Beach County jury. Mediation between plaintiffs and the hotel reached an impasse in September, and the case went to trial Tuesday before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas. During the trial, the judge granted Brumer’s motion to amend the complaint and add a negligent performance count, alleging that the hotel beautician had punctured the plaintiff’s skin. During the three-day trial, Brumer’s expert witnesses testified as to causation, which was central to the case. Brumer said he believed that contradictions elicited during cross-examination of the manicurist and the hotel’s spa manager convinced the jury of the plaintiffs’ claims.

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