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A Lake County, Indiana jury recently found against a contractor in a workplace injury case and awarded a severely injured worker $24 million. The injured worker fell from a ladder that had not been properly maintained by the contractor, and became paralyzed from the waste down.

Anthony Arciniega, 42, was rendered a paraplegic as a result of a Nov. 20, 2004, fall at ISG Burns Harbor steel mill, which is now known as ArcelorMittal.

Arciniega, who still works for the mill, fell from a ladder that was covered with refractory concrete due to the negligence of Minteq International, a contractor at the mill, according to court documents.

Jury verdicts of this size are extremely rare, and reflect the fact that the Plaintiff, or the person who brought the lawsuit, suffered very dramatic injuries. Generally speaking, if the jury finds that the defendant in the lawsuit was responsible for the injuries to the plaintiff, the jury is able to compensate an injured plaintiff for the nature and extent of their injuries, whether the injuries are temporary or permanent, past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and for what is generally called, "pain and suffering."

In a case involving paralysis, it becomes easy to see how the damages awarded by a jury could reach a number in the tens of millions. First of all, the overall lifetime cost of a paralyzed person’s medical care can easily run in the range of $10 million. Likewise, a paralyzed person needs special modifications done to their home, such as widening of the doors between rooms and modifications to their bathroom and kitchen They also need specialized transportation, such as a wheelchair accessible van, so they can get around town. I have no doubt but that this kind of evidence was presented for the jury’s consideration.

In addition to all that, the jury is allowed to consider the nature and extent of the injury and its impact on the plaintiff’s ability to function as a whole person. Obviously, when a person is paralyzed, they lose a great deal of their freedom and ability to function on their own. Under this set of circumstances there is no limit to what a jury can award for being paralyzed due to the fault of another party. Clearly, this jury tried to compensate the plaintiff and hold the wrongdoer accountable for the full extent of the injuries that were suffered.

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