Jurors in northern Minnesota have awarded $28.6 million to a young woman who was paralyzed more than seven years ago when an Ely School District bus crashed into the car in which she was a passenger, her attorney announced Thursday.
Paige Anderson, of Marble, Minn., was 16 years old when the crash occurred Oct. 9, 2009, at the intersection of Curley Avenue and Hwy. 169 in Coleraine. Anderson, now 23, has been a quadriplegic since the collision. Another passenger, Emmy Foss of Bovey, Minn., died in the crash.
The Itasca County District Court jury returned last week with its verdict after a seven-day trial: $28.572 million in damages. Jurors assigned 10 percent of the fault to the bus driver, Jay Poshak, and the balance to Hailey Salo, of the Grand Rapids area, who was 18 and driving the car with Anderson and Foss as passengers.
Stephanie Ball, of Duluth’s Fryberger Law Firm, who represented Anderson in the suit, said both defendants are insured against such claims. “Unfortunately, the coverage is substantially less than the verdict,” Ball said, raising doubt that her client will realize anything close to the total the jury came up with.
Attorneys representing the bus driver, the School District and the car’s driver were not immediately available to comment Thursday afternoon about the verdict. The defendants have the right to appeal.
“Awards this large are very rare in greater Minnesota, but this was a unique and heartbreaking case,” Ball said. The jurors’ verdict “recognizes the tragic injuries suffered by a young woman whose life was just getting started.”
Ball said the amount the jury arrived at is meant to cover past and future medical expenses, past and future pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress and loss of earning capacity.
The attorney said that a State Patrol reconstruction of the crash found inattention on the part of both drivers. The car driven westbound by Salo pulled out from Curley Avenue onto Hwy. 169 in front of the bus. The patrol also cited excessive bus speed as another contributing factor, Ball said.
During the crash, the bus broadsided the car and dragged it about 100 feet before both came to rest. Solo survived her injuries, and the bus driver was slightly hurt.
The Foss family also sued earlier in connection with the crash. While the jury cleared the bus driver of fault and found Salo fully responsible, “we had settled separately [earlier] with Salo,” said the Foss family’s attorney, Thomas Conlin, “so, of course, our verdict was not collectible. ... The sole remaining claims in our trial were against the bus driver, whom the jury exonerated.”
State court records online do not show that either driver was cited in the crash.