A woman gravely sickened on a school trip to China five years ago has been awarded a judgment in excess of $40 million after the progressive effects of the infection eventually disabled her so severely she lost the ability to speak.
Cara Munn was 15 when, on a school trip to China in 2007, insect bites sustained there caused her to contract tick-borne encephalitis.
At the time, Munn, a New York City resident, was a student at the prestigious Hotchkiss boarding school in Connecticut. On the trip, Munn and fellow students visited an area considered high-risk for tick-borne illness, and, upon her return, she was hospitalized for the disease that ended up ravaging her system and inflicting permanent brain damage.
Antonio Ponvert III, a lawyer for Munn, said of the $41 million award that the school was negligent in not only failing to manage students and protect them but also for neglecting to notify the woman’s family of the extent of her illness. He said:
“Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care … I hope that this case will help alert all schools who sponsor overseas trips for minors that they need to check the CDC for disease risks in the areas where they will be travelling, and that they must advise children in their care to use repellant and wear proper clothing when necessary.”
Ponvert added: “Cara’s injuries were easily preventable.”
In response to the woman’s $41 million award, Hotchkiss released a statement saying:
“We care deeply about all our students. We make every effort to protect them, whether they are here or participating in a school-sponsored activity off-campus. We put great care and thought into planning and administering off-campus programs, and we extend the same care to students on these trips as to students on campus.”
Munn’s attorney says that, while the prognosis for her condition is dim, the $41 million award should enable her to have access to treatment for the rest of her life.