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Woman who was struck in head by crossbar awarded $500,000 in suit

February 17, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A woman who was struck on the head by the broken crossbar of a swing set 5 1/2 years ago in Waynesboro, Pa., was awarded $500,000 by a jury in Franklin County Court.

The jury deliberated about two hours before finding that the borough of Waynesboro was negligent in the July 15, 2001, accident at Memorial Park that injured Joleen Brubaker of Mechanicsburg, Pa., formerly of Canada.

The jury awarded Brubaker $9,246 for medical expenses, $35,408 for lost earning capacity and $455,346 for pain and suffering.

Her attorney, James Stein, said he had asked the jury to award Brubaker approximately $540,000 for her loss of future earnings. In Pennsylvania, an attorney cannot ask for a specific figure for pain and suffering, he said.

"I think the jury really found Joleen to be a credible witness," Stein said. The borough, he said, "didn't really contest the negligence issue."

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Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said any comments on the results of the trial would be left to attorney Kent Price, who could not be reached Friday afternoon at his office.

Price said earlier in the week the failure of the crossbar was something that could not be foreseen by the borough because the rusted portion that failed was within a coupling.

Brubaker, 28, testified earlier in the week that she was in Waynesboro to attend a friend's wedding, but could not remember the accident itself. During the trial, witnesses testified that Brubaker and another woman were on the swing when the 130-pound crossbar broke, striking Brubaker on the head.

The crossbar, which was sawed in half in order to get it into the courtroom, was on the floor in front of the jury box during the trial, which began Monday and was interrupted Wednesday because of the winter storm.

Brubaker's injuries included a fractured skull and fractures of the orbital bone around her right eye, according to court records. She testified she continues to experience headaches and cognitive problems since the accident.

The injuries, she said, have prevented her from pursuing a post-graduate degree and obtaining better employment. A vocational expert and psychologist, Dr. Paul Anderson, estimated her lost future earnings at between $421,000 and $662,000 based on her working fewer years at lower pay.

In a video tape deposition Thursday, neurologist Dr. Ravi Dukkipati testified for the defense that "99 percent" of people with similar injuries normally make a complete recovery within weeks and that any residual problems likely would be psychological rather than physical.

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