Fla. woman injured in 1984 accident is awarded $20 million

June 23, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A Florida woman who has been in a vegetative state since a 1984 traffic accident was awarded $20 million by an Anne Arundel Circuit judge yesterday.

The defendant trucking company and its insurer have declared bankruptcy, which is expected to make the judgment difficult to collect.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner awarded the money to Karen M. Lawhorne, 44, of Nokomis, Fla., after a hearing in which an economist testified about her medical expenses and lost wages, and a nurse testified about her medical condition.

The woman and her husband, Darrell F. Lawhorne, were awarded an additional $2 million jointly by Judge Lerner for loss of consortium.

According to court papers, Acton Food Services Corp. of Millington filed for bankruptcy, along with the company's insurance company, Mission National Insurance Co., which means the plaintiffs will join the companies' list of creditors in bankruptcy proceedings.

The Lawhornes filed a $132 million suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in 1985, when they still lived in Crofton.

Mrs. Lawhorne, formerly of the 1700 block of Gaffney Court in Crofton, was injured when the pickup truck in which she was riding collided with an Acton tractor-trailer hauling 42,000 pounds of chicken feed near Routes 301 and 299 in Cecil County, according to court papers.

Judge Lerner was told that the woman, who was studying to be a groom, suffered severe head injuries and spent five months in a coma after the accident.

She has been confined to a wheelchair and requires 24-hour care.

"These people's lives are ruined by this," Judge Lerner said.

The Lawhornes' lawyer, Robert O. Johnston of Bethesda, was unavailable for comment last night.

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