Jury awards paralyzed dancer $148M after O'Hare bus shelter collapse

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A jury awarded $148 million Wednesday to a 26-year-old paralyzed dancer after a bus shelter collapsed on her in 2015 during a storm.

This is the largest personal injury award by a Cook County jury.

Tierney Darden, a dancer and student at Truman College at the time, sued the city of Chicago after the incident at O'Hare International Airport. The city had offered to settle the case for $22 million but Darden's attorney refused.

During closing arguments, Tierney's attorney suggested that she be awarded nearly $175 million for pain, suffering and medical costs. The jury heard from Darden and her family who testified about her constant pain and suffering since the August 2, 2015 incident. They also saw video of what her life is like, requiring 24-hour care.

"Tierney and her family and her entire trial team are very, very grateful for the jury's service and their recognition of the catastrophic nature of her injury and the fact that this verdict is going to make a real difference for this sweet young lady," said Patrick Salvi, an attorney for Darden.

The city released a statement, saying, "We are disappointed in the jury's verdict and are evaluating our legal options."

City officials also clarified the entire award is covered by insurance and will not be paid by taxpayers.

The trial started over a week ago in a Cook County courtroom.

Darden, who uses a wheelchair, and her family were in the courtroom when the verdict was announced at about 5 p.m., after the jury had deliberated for about four hours.

Darden cried when she heard the jury's award. Once court was dismissed, jurors crossed the courtroom to hug her.

"In this case, that money doesn't matter because it's not going to bring her to her feet again. But we went over everything and we broke everything down for the rest of her life, because she can't work. So all that money, she's depending on that money for the rest of her life," said juror Luis Hernandez.

The family did not comment, but plan to make a public statement Thursday morning.

As a result of the shelter collapse, Tierney sustained a dislocated vertebrae at T11-T12, which resulted in the most rare and significant type of spinal cord injury, a severed spinal cord that left her paralyzed from the waist down, according to her attorney. A pain expert testified Tierney's spinal cord "stretched until it popped and ripped."

Tierney Darden, a former dancer, is suing the city of Chicago after a bus shelter at O'Hare fell and paralyzed her.

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