United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge
action, brought pursuant this Court's admiralty and
maritime jurisdiction, involves claims of personal injury
suffered by Plaintiff as a result of being struck by a
pleasure boat operated by Defendant on the navigable waters
of the United States. The parties have stipulated (1)
Defendant is liable to Plaintiff for ordinary negligence; (2)
Defendant is not liable for punitive damages; (3) Plaintiffs
injuries were proximately caused by Defendant's
negligence; and (4) Plaintiff did not contribute to her
injuries. (Dkt. No. 21). The only issue remaining is the
amount of damages Plaintiff is entitled to arising out of
Defendant's simple negligence.
matter was tried to the Court on June 20, 2018. After fully
considering the testimony and other evidence offered at
trial, the arguments of the parties, and the legal standards
relevant to the claims and defenses of the parties, the Court
makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Plaintiff and Defendant were in a group boating on the Ashley
River in Charleston County, South Carolina on May 12, 2015.
Defendant was operating the boat and Plaintiff, then 24 years
of age, was being pulled behind the boat on an inner tube.
Defendant slowed the boat and Plaintiffs momentum took her
into the boat's path, resulting in Plaintiff being struck
in multiple locations on her lower torso by the boat's
propeller. Plaintiff suffered severe pain, apprehension and
fear as a result of her traumatic contact with the boat's
propeller and was immediately transported the Medical
University Hospital in Charleston for emergency medical care.
Plaintiff was determined to have over one dozen lacerations
on her buttocks and legs, with the most severe injuries on
her right calf and Achilles area. Her wounds were cleaned and
stitches were used to close her lacerations. Plaintiff was
then discharged the same day from the hospital with narcotic
pain medications and a recommendation that she consult with
an orthopaedic surgeon. Plaintiff suffered severe pain
initially, which has subsided but never completely
disappeared over three years after her injuries.
Plaintiff was initially immobilized by her injuries and
required a wheel chair and later crutches to move around. She
was out of work for several months and was required to move
to her parents' home in Connecticut for assistance with
her wound care and recovery.
After several months of recovery, which included numerous
physician visits and physical therapy sessions, she was able
to return to her former work in the hospitality industry. Her
severe pain subsided but she continued to have episodes of
pain, paresthesia, and numbness, and a number of her
lacerations resulted in significant unsightly and unstable
scars. Some of the scar tissue, particularly in her right
calf, would spontaneously break down and bleed, and she
experienced significant pain when standing for long periods
of time. Plaintiff was also diagnosed with a fracture of her
proximal fibula and common peroneal nerve dysfunction of her
right lower extremity. (Plaintiffs Exhibit T at 154-156,
the direct and proximate result of the events of May 12,
2015, her ongoing recovery, and persistent pain and breakdown
of her scarred areas of lacerations, Plaintiff has suffered
significant emotional trauma, mental anguish, shock, fright,
and humiliation. The Court finds that some of her mental
anguish will continue into the future, likely at a lesser
degree as time passes.
Plaintiff was referred to a plastic surgeon, Dr. Peter de
Vito, who recommended she undergo reconstruction surgery to
address the most significant of the scarred areas of her
lower leg and Achilles. He described Plaintiffs condition in
his medical record as "extremely disfiguring, painful
injuries and scars with significant functional deficit."
(Plaintiffs Exhibit T at 182). Dr. de Vito testified that he
believed Plaintiff is now ready for reconstructive surgery
and estimated that it would require at least three different
surgical procedures, each performed in a hospital under
general anesthesia. Plaintiff testified that she is anxious
to have the reconstructive surgery, but the cost of the
surgery is presently financially prohibitive and she believes
that her health insurance would not cover a sufficient amount
of the costs. The Court finds the testimony of Dr. de Vito
and Plaintiff on these matters to be credible. Further, the
Court finds Plaintiff will suffer wage loss and significant
pain and suffering from these multiple reconstructive
Following Plaintiffs injuries, she was seen by several
orthopaedists, at least one of whom, Dr. Blake Ohlson,
recommended certain future treatment options. These included
knee surgery, decompression of her common peroneal nerve, and
various medications and therapies. (Plaintiffs Exhibit T at
194-96). Plaintiff has not pursued any of these therapies.
Based on the Plaintiffs testimony at trial, the Court finds
that most probably she will not pursue most of these
therapies and treatments.
Plaintiff has continued to experience severe pain when
standing on her feet for prolonged periods and has been
recommended for a Morton's Neuroma resection to address
this chronic foot pain arising from her injuries. The Court
finds that Plaintiff will most probably pursue this treatment
if she has the financial ability to do so.
Plaintiffs injuries forced her to miss several months of work
with a total wage loss of $6, 198.85. (Plaintiffs Exhibit U).
The Court further finds that she will most probably miss
additional work due to her multiple reconstructive surgeries