ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 11 -- An Annapolis woman who was paralyzed in a charity bed race two years ago has been awarded $2.25 million by a Circuit Court jury here after the makeshift bed she rode hit a curb and propelled her head-first into a telephone pole.
Carolyn Pike, 40, whose neck was broken in the accident and who is now paralyzed from the chest down, won the award against the Maryland chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and a local beer distributor who sponsored the charity race nearly three years ago. Pike, a former head nurse in Anne Arundel General Hospital's intensive care ward and now a co-owner of the Deli Depot restaurant in Annapolis, was unavailable for comment today. "She's very happy," said her husband, James Pike, who takes care of her during the day. "I know she's very pleased with the verdict, and it will make a big difference in her life."
Pike's lawyers, Kathleen Cahill and her father William Cahill, said today that the money, to be equally paid by the defendants, will not give Pike a life of luxury but will help pay for her months in the hospital and for the constant care she will need for the rest of her life. The Cahills would not say whether Pike had insurance to cover her medical expenses.
Jurors deliberated two days before returning their verdict on Wednesday. According to Pike's attorneys, lawyers for all sides in the case reached an agreement while the jury was still deliberating that there will be no appeals and no requests for a new trial.
Bed racing has been a popular fund-raising event for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since the late 1970s, said Ronald A. Baradel, attorney for the association, and has never been considered dangerous. Only one minor accident has been reported, he said, when the mayor of a small Florida town stepped backwards into the path of a slow-moving bed while he was making a speech.
In a bed race wheels are attached to beds that are pushed along a course with a passenger aboard. During the August 1985 mishap, Pike was being pushed along the 70-yard course on Dock Street here when the bed went out of control as it neared the finish line and hit a curb. At least two of the people pushing the bed lost their grip and Pike was hurled into the pole about two feet away, according to testimony at the trial. Pike now has limited use of her arms and cannot use her fingers.
Pike separated from her husband James Pike a few months before the accident, but he quit his job after the accident and spends each weekday caring for her, according to testimony during the trial. Pike's boyfriend, Thomas Loyet lives at her house and cares for her in the evenings and on weekends.
Pike's lawyers argued during the four-week trial that the association, which raises money to research and treat the muscle-wasting disease, and Katcef Brothers Inc., were guilty of negligence, and had not done enough to make sure the race was safe for participants.
Lawyers for Katcef Brothers and the Muscular Dystrophy Association argued that bed races had been conducted without incident in identical circumstances. "There are no bad guys in this case," Baradel told jurors at the beginning of the trial. "Mrs. Pike was there participating in what was supposed to be have been a fun event to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association . . . . There was, unfortunately, a tragic accident -- what some might term a freak accident."
The jury also settled two secondary suits resulting from the accident, in which Katcef Brothers charged the Muscular Dystrophy Association had not provided the expertise needed to stage the race and the association had charged the beer distributors with failing to obtain releases from participants. The jury agreed with both complaints, but awarded no damages.