Loretta Cooper v. India Fitzpatrick: A woman who was attacked with a box-cutting tool and left with permanent scars all over her face was recently awarded more than $468,000 by a state judge in Bridgeport.
According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, the victim and her female attacker were fighting over a guy.
On Feb. 21, 2009, Loretta Cooper, then 21, received a phone call from her cousin asking Cooper to come to the cousin’s Bridgeport home. The cousins were generally not on friendly terms.
Upon her arrival, Cooper got into a verbal dispute with her cousin’s guest, India Fitzpatrick. The argument escalated to the point that Fitzpatrick allegedly took out a box cutter, held down Cooper and proceeded to “filet” Cooper’s face, according to plaintiff’s lawyer Michael Meehan, of Meehan, Meehan & Gavin in Bridgeport.
Meehan said Cooper had to go to the emergency room for treatment of the deep cuts. She suffered a 7-inch long gash on the right side of her face and a 2-inch long gash on her forehead. Cooper also had a 3-inch gash on her nose, along with other facial cuts and bruises.
Meehan said Cooper needed immediate plastic surgery to address the wounds. Despite the surgery, Meehan said his client has numerous scars on her face.
“Unfortunately, she has visible scars she has to live with for the rest of her life,” said Meehan. “She has two significant scars on her forehead, another on the right side of her face approaching her ear and another over her nose.”
Meehan said his client still deals with post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident and has also required counseling to deal with the scarring. “It’s difficult for anybody to have, especially for a young woman,” said Meehan.
Fitzpatrick, who was in her late teens, was arrested on charges including felony first-degree assault.
On Feb. 16, 2011, Fitzpatrick pled guilty to third-degree assault, second-degree threatening and first-degree reckless endangerment, all Class A misdemeanors and was given a suspended sentence with no jail time and just probation. Meehan said Fitzpatrick was pregnant at the time and that may have factored into the judge’s decision on sentencing.
Meehan said he represented Cooper as a victim in the criminal proceedings and then in the subsequent civil lawsuit against Fitzpatrick. Cooper sued Fitzpatrick for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Meehan said Fitzpatrick represented herself in the civil lawsuit. He said liability wasn’t in question so the case proceeded to a hearing on damages before Superior Court Judge Richard Gilardi in Bridgeport. Meehan said the hearing lasted about a half-day.
The unusual aspect of the hearing, Meehan explained, was that since Fitzpatrick represented herself, she cross-examined her victim. “It was a very difficult thing,” said Meehan. “My client became extremely upset, stood up and shouted at [Fitzpatrick] while she was in the witness stand.”
Meehan said the judge did a good job of restoring order in the courtroom. “I’ve tried a lot of cases over my career and it was one of the more unusual set of circumstance I’ve been involved in in my 18 years of practicing law,” said Meehan.
Gilardi issued a written ruling last month and awarded the plaintiff $468,326. Of that amount, $450,000 was for non-economic damages — $225,000 for the assault and battery and another $225,000 for the emotional distress. The remaining $18,326 was to cover medical bills.
Meehan said he and his client were still exploring options “in regard to the collectability of the judgment.”
“I think justice was served for my client given the verdict,” said Meehan. “She’s happy that it’s over now.”•