CHICAGO — Two years after an O'Hare bus shelter collapsed on a young dancer, leaving her paralyzed, a jury awarded her a record $148 million, her lawyers said.
Tierney Darden, 24, was awarded the sum after a jury deliberated for about five hours Wednesday. The trial started 10 days ago and the city had offered to settle the case for $22 million, but her attorneys refused, they said.
Family members said the suburban woman, a former dancer and student at Truman College, has been in constant pain since the accident on Aug. 2, 2015. She was returning to Chicago from a trip to Minneapolis to shop for bridesmaid dresses when a storm came through the area and a pedestrian shelter weighing 750 pounds loosened and fell on top of her.
“My face hit the ground; there was a crack and a white light, and everything went numb. I knew I was paralyzed. The pain I feel every day is like torture,” Tierney told the jury, according to her lawyers, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.
She is now paralyzed from the waist down and a pain expert testified her spine "stretched until it popped and ripped."
Attorneys said the shelter was missing bolts, and an investigation "found other shelters at O'Hare that were poorly maintained with missing bolts, corroded parts or broken brackets."
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city's Law Department, said the city was evaluating its legal options.
"We are disappointed in the jury's verdict," he said.
The city is not on the hook for the award, officials said. It is insured by AIG Aviation up to $500 million for incidents such as this, according to attorneys for Tierney.
“This is a verdict these jurors can be proud of and exactly what Tierney deserves. We are thankful to these 12 people for fully recognizing Tierney’s injuries and helping her move on with her life,” said attorney Patrick A. Salvi.