As a personal injury trial lawyer in Georgia, I have often told clients that they do not want what goes with the kind of case that makes headlines. It is better to have good health than a multi-million dollar injury case.

A recent New Jersey case is a good illustration of that.

In 1999, an Aramark concession employee at Giants Stadium broke stadium rules by continuing to sell beer to a fan who had been drinking much of the day and was slurring his words. The drunk fan drove away and crashed into a family vehicle, rendering a two year old girl a quadriplegic.  The girl, now 11, is still paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

Three years ago, a jury awarded damages of $105 million.  An appeals court reversed that judgment and ordered a new trial, saying the lower court improperly allowed testimony about the "culture of intoxication" at the stadium. Now the case has been settled, with $23.5 million for the girl and $1.5 million for her mother, who was also injured. There is no further appeal from a settlement.

Having been represented  young quadriplegics with well-designed life care plans, I know what is involved and how expensive proper lifetime care for a quadriplegic is. 

Since receiving payment on the settlement,  the family began building a handicapped-accessible home equipped with  technology to provide the girl as good a life as she can have as a quadriplegic. The house should be ready by the holidays.

This young girl can only move her head, but with state of the art technology she will be able to control her wheelchair, elevator, TV and computer with her voice.  She will also be able to have  round-the-clock nursing care, which  is necessary in case her ventilator becomes clogged creating a life-or-death situation.

No amount of money can fully compensate a young girl for the loss of the ability to run and play, to hold hands, to enjoy all the blessing of life that the rest of us take for granted. But the money can allow her dignity, humanity, and the best life that is accessible to her.

And maybe, just maybe, this case will make an impression on businesses that serve alcohol around the country, and in that way prevent other tragedies over the years.


Ken Shigley is a Georgia trial lawyer focused on cases of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death. He has been rated as one of the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine) and a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine). He has represented numerous survivors of spinal cord and brain injuries.  A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he served a decade on the faculty of the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program.  Mr. Shigley is currently Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.