A federal jury in Bridgeport, Connecticut ordered Hotchkiss School, an independent boarding school in Connecticut, to pay $41.75 million to a young female who developed encephalitis resulting in disability and the inability to speak after a tick bite while studying in China for a school study abroad program.
The verdict has sent a chill across schools and other youth groups because if the award stands it would set a precedent for negligence cases arising from educational trips.
The two questions critical to the outcome are whether the school was obligated to warn the student and her parents about the risk of insect borne illness in China as well as if the verdict was excessive and if so, what the reduction should be or if a new trial should be ordered.
A decision from the state Supreme Court is expected in months.
Interestingly, Antonio Ponvert III, the attorney arguing for the family, was involved in another case settled out of court where a girl contracted Lyme Disease after being bitten by a tick at a Connecticut summer camp. He sued for more than $40 million but no notice of the settlement was filed in court.