Girl’s mother sued her aunt and uncle over burns
By: Rebecca Boyle
The mother of a 2-year-old girl sued her aunt, after the girl was severely burned in a fire pit, and won a $300,000 settlement three years later.
Over Memorial Day weekend 2007, Kelli Hastings took her children to visit her aunt and uncle, Jerry and Vickie Myers, at their farm in Henry Country. On Saturday night, the Myerses lit a fire in a pit near a concrete patio and left the coals burn out after everyone went to bed.
The next morning, the family had breakfast on the patio so the kids could play outside. None of the adults knew the coals were still hot, and the Hastings children – who are identical twins – played with a rope nearby. After breakfast, Kelli Hastings walked back into the farmhouse and soon heard her daughter Jamie screaming. Jamie, who was almost 3 at the time, had tripped and fallen into the fire pit, suffering second-and third-degree burns on her feet, left thigh and hands, according to Hastings’ attorney, Mark J. Murphy.
“She was pretty small at the time, so her whole body fell in the pit,” Murphy said. She landed on her left side, he said.
Jamie was stabilized at Golden Valley Hospital and later admitted to the burn unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for two weeks. Severe burns are at risk for infections, so she was under constant care, Murphy said. After her release, the scarring on Jamie’s wrist and leg became progressively worse, and she underwent two skin grafts that involved taking skin from her upper thigh. She wore a cast over her right arm and her entire left leg for two weeks after the surgery, and her medical bills reached about $70,000.
Her extensive injuries were one reason the case took so long to reach mediation, Murphy said.
“We wanted to make sure that all the scar remediation had been done, or at least as much as could be done for someone this size,” he said.
Murphy said he wanted to talk to a focus group to examine how the case might play out before a jury, given the family dynamics. It was a unique case because it involved a mother suing her aunt and uncle on behalf of her daughter, and the aunt and uncle were also upset by the accident, he said.
“It was a unique enough scenario that we wanted to not only research other verdicts, but pose a fact pattern like this to focus groups so they could tell us how these facts were be received,” he said. “We took all the findings into consideration in order to receive what we thing is a good result for her.”
J. Sean Dumm, an attorney based in Overland Park, Kan., represented the Myerses. He declined to comment on the outcome.
Murphy said Jamie’s parents were satisfied with the result, but the accident was hard on the whole family.
The $300,000 settlement will be covered by the Myerses’ homeowners insurance, he said. “Our hope is that maybe there are advancements between now and the time she is fully grown, so that there may be different surgeries and treatments that can be done to minimize her scarring,” he said.