Jury awards millions to injured Quinhagak girl

Posted: Monday, August 09, 2004

ANCHORAGE - A Chicago company has been ordered to pay more than $8.6 million to a 13-year-old girl in the village of Quinhagak in western Alaska.

Taryn Andrew received permanent brain damage when a 274-pound folding cafeteria table made by the company fell over and struck her.

The Bethel jury last month found Midwest Folding Products Corp. had sold the school two tables whose design made them top-heavy and prone to tip. A national safety organization had previously deemed the tables unsafe.

Andrew will receive $3.6 million for health care costs and as much as $1.4 million more to defray her attorney fees. She will also get half of a $5 million punitive damage award, with the state getting the other half because of tort reforms enacted in 1997.

The school district settled earlier for $360,000.

Midwest could end up paying $10 million, said Anchorage attorney Russ Winner, who represented Andrew along with Bethel attorney Myron Angstman.

"The jury found the table company knowingly sent out a table that it knew was dangerous," Winner said. "The jury sent the message that such companies cannot design, manufacture and distribute products in disregard of the safety of children."

In 1989, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that six children had been killed and more than a dozen others injured when top-heavy tables fell over on them.

The commission required manufacturers to put warning labels on their tables saying that children should not be allowed to move them.

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