15-Year-Old Who Suffered Brain Damage During Field Trip Wins $42 Million

Heartbreaking 5

A teen who took an exotic field trip to China with her classmates from her fancy Connecticut boarding school ended up brain damaged and unable to speak. I cannot fathom a more horrific outcome for what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And how it happened is just inconceivable. Cara Munn, who was in rural China with her classmates in the summer of 2007, was bit by a tick and ended up getting something called tick-borne encephalitis, which damaged her brain. Ugh. Awful. Who would think this could happen? Her father sued the school for $42 million and won. How was the school responsible for a tick bite? Well, Cara's dad says the school didn't take the proper cautions. Which is where he kind of loses me.

As horrible as this incident is, how do you take precautions against every conceivable thing that can happen to a child? Especially one that is across the world in a foreign country? And in a rural part of it, no less? Mann's father, Orson Munn III, who runs a large advertising firm, also claimed that the school, Hotchkiss, a well-known prep school, didn't get his daughter the proper medical care she needed. But you wonder how they could have out in the middle of rural China?

At any rate, Cara is now 20 and a federal jury just awarded her $42 million, though the school is appealing. They say this type of tick disease is so rare, they couldn't have possibly foreseen it. And they're probably right about that.

Still, it's hard to blame Cara's dad for suing. She must need round-the-clock care and that is expensive. She'll need it for the rest of her life. The school most likely had insurance that would cover something like this. After the lawyers are paid, Cara will have just about enough to sustain her care for the rest of her life. Her parents' lives and her life have been changed forever because they allowed her to go on what they thought would be a fun, educational trip. Absolutely tragic.

But you do wonder if parents have an obligation to swallow some of the risk involved when they send their kids on field trips, especially ones to exotic locales. The fact of the matter is, you can't control everything. Perhaps the school should have known enough to put tick spray on the kids, but then someone has an allergic reaction, and you've got a different lawsuit on your hands.

Sigh. It's a dangerous world out there, I'm afraid. And sometimes danger comes in very tiny packages. It's enough to make you never want to let your kids leave the house, but what kind of life is that? Besides, that doesn't save you from sinkholes.

Do you think the school should pay up?


Image via John Tann/Flickr

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