A 5-year-old girl will receive $147 million if she lives to be as old as the average American, as the result of an out-of-court settlement with the YMCA.
The settlement, filed in the Lawrence Circuit Court here and approved Monday by federal Judge James E. Noland, could be the largest individual personal-injury award.
It was awarded on behalf of Jodie Patrick, who was revived after being found at the bottom of a pool during a swimming class at the Vincennes, Ind., YMCA on July 20, 1976. According to doctors, the child is severely retarded, as a result of loss of oxygen to the brain, during the episode, with no hope of rehabilitation.
In addition to $831,000 in Iump-sum payments, the settlement calls for the child's guardian to receive $4,000 a month to start, with that amount to escalate 8 percent per year for as long as Jodie Patrick lives. Thus, the monthly payment will double roughly every 10 years.
Thomas Hicks, a Terre Haute lawyer who represented the child, said if she fulfills the 71-year life expectantly of the average American her age, she will recieve $147 million in annuity payments. In her 70th year annuity payments would escalate to $6 million a month.
Under terms of the settlement, the Vincennes YMCA is required to pay an initial $350,000 of the total settlement and the national YMCA is liable for everything thereafter. Plainfitt's attorneys alleged in the suit that the local YMCA was negligent for not providing adequate adult supervision at the swimming classes and that the national YMCA was engligent for failing to properly inspect the local Tadpole swimming programs.
Hicks said no one knows for certain how long Jodie was under water before she was discovered at the bottom of the pool. Showing no signs of life, she was rushed 15 blocks to a hospital where an emergency room medical team restored her breathing and heart beat 13 minutes later.
According to Hicks, he treating physician and two other doctors who have examined her do not know how long she will live, but have stated she could have a normal life expectancy.
James W. Funk, local counsel for the Vincennes YMCA, said phsyicians for the Y's insurance companies believe her actuarial lifespan is between five and ten years. If she only lives that long, the settlement will amount to $2 million.
Physicians' reports state that although the child's brain was "devastated," she is "not a vegetable." She breathes through an opening in her throat, is fed through a tube in her stomach and must be continually aspirated to clear her lungs.
Doctors said she feels pain when stuck by a needle, appears to recognize her mother and shows symptoms of anger when strangers enter her room. She has been hospitalized in Vincennes and Indianapolis most of the time since the near-drowning, but has made several brief visits home.
A plaintiff's brief said her parents are "living in hell" with the constant attention she must receive.
Hicks indicated an initial lump settlement of more than $14 million had been proposed by her attorneys, but was rejected by defense counsel in lieu of the annuity-type settlement.
Dr. Robert Harlan, executive director of the national YMCA in New York, could not be reached for comment.
Hicks said there was "absolutely no consideration given" to including the Good Samaritan Hospital or the physicians who revived the child in the law-suit. "All of the doctors we have talked to say that under these conditions sometimes you get a Jodie and sometimes you get a child who goes hopping back to school in a few days."
The largest previous personal-injury award was a jury award of nearly $128 million to Richard Grimshaw, 18, of Anaheim, Calif., who was severely burned when his 1972 Ford Pinto was struck from the rear by another vehicle. Last month Grimshaw said he would accept a $6.3 million settlement from the Ford Motor Co. if there would not be another trial or further appeals.