NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A jury on Wednesday awarded $41.7 million to a woman who sued her prestigious boarding school after contracting a tick-borne illness on a school trip to China that left her unable to speak and brain damaged.
The federal jury in Bridgeport ruled in favor of Cara Munn, 20, in her lawsuit against The Hotchkiss School, a private school in Lakeville. The school said it would appeal.
Munn, of New York City, was a ninth-grader at Hotchkiss when she joined a school-supervised trip to China during the summer of 2007, according to her lawsuit. The then-15-year-old suffered insect bites that led to tick-borne encephalitis, her attorneys said.
The school failed to ensure that the students take any precautions against ticks and allowed them to walk through a densely wooded area known to be a risk area for tick-borne encephalitis and other tick- and insect-transmitted illnesses, her attorneys said.
"Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care," Munn's attorney Antonio Ponvert III said. "I hope that this case will help alert all schools who sponsor overseas trips for minors that they need to check the CDC for disease risks in the areas where they will be travelling, and that they must advise children in their care to use repellant and wear proper clothing when necessary. Cara's injuries were easily preventable."
Attorneys for the school argued that tick-borne encephalitis is such a rare disease that it could not have foreseen a risk and could not be expected to warn Munn or require her to use protection against it.
Hotchkiss officials said they remain very saddened by Munn's illness and hope for improvements to her health.
"We care deeply about all our students," the school said in a 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."
Historically, Hotchkiss students have undertaken study, service projects and travel in the United States and throughout the world and derived great benefit from the opportunities, the school said.
The case lasted eight days, and the jury deliberated for about eight hours before returning their verdict.
Accept The Change
The most surefire way to make a big change more difficult for yourself is to fight it. Although having a hard time letting go is a natural reaction, a desire live in the past will only cause more pain and prolong the adjustment period. Instead of dwelling on what you're leaving behind -- high school, a two-year relationship, a unified family -- focus on getting through the change right now and creating a positive future. In order to do that successful, you must first accept the reality that your life will no longer be the same.
Find Time For Reflection
Whether it's journaling, meditation, taking long walks on your own, or talking to a therapist or other trusted adult, periods of change are when it's most important to stop and assess how you're feeling about everything. Self-reflection can help you identify your main sources of challenge and worry, and to see other sides of the situation. Taking time for reflection will also help you to act mindfully and with intention as you take your next steps.
Take It One Day At A Time
When you start feeling overwhelmed about all the changes that are taking place, remember to take things one step and one day at a time. Set small, attainable goals for the future and try not to get wrapped up in speculations or anxieties about where your future is headed. Learning to live in the now -- not in your nostalgia for the past or worry about the future -- will make any challenges seem more manageable. If it helps, create a timeline and write down your goals and plans, both long-term or short-term.
Find A Mentor
Talking to an older friend or relative who's successfully made the transition to college life, moved to a new city or country, or gotten through their parents' divorce can make a huge difference in helping you feel equipped to handle the change. Take the time to meet for coffee, lunch or a long-distance Skype date to hear their story and ask for advice on conquering your own big change.
Learn To Be An Optimist
Overcoming negative thoughts patterns and cultivating a positive outlook will shift your mindset so that you learn to see opportunities for growth where previously there were only roadblocks. Every cloud has a silver lining and every big change has something beneficial to bring to your life. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/positive-thinking-tips-10_n_2252944.html?ref=topbar">Click here</a> for our guide to ditching the negativity and getting optimistic.