Last week a jury in Brevard County, Florida, awarded $76.6 million in damages to a construction worker who was paralyzed from the neck down after he dove head first into a foot of water on a dare. Timothy Hoffman, 20 at the time of the injury in 2003, said his supervisor during a project at Sunrise Village Condominiums in Port St. John offered him $10 to do a "belly flop" off a dock into the Indian River Lagoon. He sued the general contractor in charge of the project, C&D Dock Works, arguing that it inadequately trained its supervisors and failed to warn him of the lagoon's shallowness. The company's owner, Charles Brunty, could not afford a lawyer and made an abortive attempt at representing himself, giving up after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May as a result of the case. It's not clear how much money, if any, Hoffman will actually collect. Brunty gave the Orlando Sentinel a sample of his defense:
"There was no negligence on my part," Brunty said. There was a rail at the edge of the water, he added, indicating a potential danger.
"Why he went into the water, I don't know," Brunty said. "There's got to be some common sense, too."
A local TV station, perhaps out of sympathy for Hoffman, doctored the truth about how he was injured, reporting that "he broke his neck after falling 50 feet from atop a seawall."
[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the tip.]