A Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, jury awarded $19 million in damages to a man left paralyzed after an accident in a friend’s swimming pool.
Jurors found that Robert and Laura O’ Black were negligent and liable for injuries sustained by their friend, 29-year-old Michael Fraser. Fraser broke his neck after diving onto a raft floating in the backyard pool. Fraser’s lawyers said the O’ Blacks improperly allowed the 5-foot raft in the pool and that were it not for the raft, the life-altering injury would not have occurred.
Fraser was 21 on July 6, 2013, when he attended a holiday party at the home of his friend. He jumped off a diving board and onto the raft. Witnesses said Fraser was propelled off of the raft, striking his head between the deep and shallow ends of the pool.
According to Mike Calder, Fraser’s lawyer, the O’ Blacks covered up a warning appearing on the raft warning against using it for diving. Robert O’ Black testified that he bought the raft to be pulled behind a boat but instead it was routinely used in the family pool. Calder asked that the jury find the O’ Black’s negligent as the raft was not appropriate to be used in a swimming pool.
The raft itself was never produced as evidence because, according to both sets of lawyers, it was thrown out years ago.
Robert Loch, the attorney for the O’ Black family, said that Fraser was solely at fault for his injuries.
“Remember why this accident happened, and what Mr. Fraser did and the choices he made,” Loch said to the jurors.
Fraser and his family testified about his quality of life since the accident occurred, including roundthe- clock care and needed help with nearly every aspect of living.
Fraser testified that he has had multiple surgeries, is confined to a wheelchair, has limited use of his arms, and cannot perform most tasks without assistance.
Now 29 years old, Fraser has since graduated from Robert Morris University and works as an actuary.
After a week-long trial, the jury deliberated for more than 2 hours before finding that the O’ Blacks were responsible for 70 percent of Fraser’s injuries.
The jury awarded him $9 million in damages to pay for past and future medical expenses, $3 million for pain and suffering, $3 million for embarrassment, $3 million for loss of life’s pleasures, and $1 million for disfigurement.
It is believed to be the largest verdict ever issued in Westmoreland County.