The family of a Florida high school student who suffered permanent brain injury at an after-school fundraiser in 2007 was awarded nearly $6.9 million by a judge. Tatiana Abernathy, and her son, Dakota, 18, were awarded the money by First Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas Remington, who granted a motion for summary judgment for the Plaintiff. The $6.9 million, plus attorney’s fees and court costs, were awarded against Interstate Fire and Casualty Company and the Choctaw Touchdown Club, Inc. The case also involves product liability claims against Funtastic Factory, Inc., and Emerald Coast Entertainment, LLC, which are still pending.
In April 2007, Dakota Abernathy, an eighth grade student at the time, was critically injured while playing on an inflatable “bungee run.” The student was participating in the First Annual Jellyfish Festival at Choctaw High School’s football stadium. The school’s Touchdown Club, made up of football patrons, school alumni, parents of players and family members who want to help the athletic program, was sponsoring the fundraiser. The young man was strapped into bungee cords. He ran to the end of what resembled a bowling alley lane and was snapped back to his starting place by the cords. In the bungee run, the harder the participant strains against the bungee cords, the harder the recoil.
After completing the bungee run, Dakota complained of being dizzy, threw up and went into convulsions. He was airlifted to a hospital in Pensacola where he underwent emergency surgery to remove a piece of his skull to ease brain swelling and drain blood buildup from a severe subdural hematoma. The youngster, who was in a coma, was placed on a ventilator. Doctors described his condition at the time as “shaken baby syndrome multiplied.”
Dakota survived and went through months of rehabilitation at a hospital in Atlanta. He is now a senior in school and, with special provisions, will graduate this year. His plans to be an Air Force pilot will never materialize. Dixie Dan Powell, a lawyer with Powell Powell, & Powell, a law firm in Crestview, Fla. represented the family in the lawsuit and did a very good job. The Defendants have appealed the judge’s decision.
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