Nearly six years after contracting a serious tick-borne illness that left her mute and with severe brain damage, a now 20-year-old New York City woman was awarded $41.7 million in a settlement against her former school by a federal jury.
In her lawsuit against the Hotchkiss School, a private school in Lakeville, Conn., Cara Munn's attorneys argued that the school did not provide adequate precautions to protect students from ticks during a 2007 summer trip to China when Munn was a freshman.
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On at least one occasion on the trip, students walked through a wooded area known for its high concentration of ticks that carry encephalitis, which is irritation and swelling of the brain that affected Munn, her attorneys said.
The school has already announced that it will appeal Wednesday's decision
, The Associated Press reported.
"Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care," Munn's attorney Antonio Ponvert III said. "Cara's injuries were easily preventable."
In response, attorneys for the school countered that encephalitis is such a rare disease the academic institution could not have foreseen the risk, and therefore it should not be held responsible for cautioning students.
Hotchkiss administrators said in a statement this week that the community was saddened by Munn's illness and hoped for improvements to her health, the AP reported.
"We care deeply about all our students," the school said in the statement. "We make every effort to protect them, whether they are here or participating in a school-sponsored activity off-campus. We put great care and thought into planning and administering off-campus programs, and we extend the same care to students on these trips as to students on campus."
The Connecticut jury deliberated for eight hours before returning their verdict on the case, which lasted for eight days.
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