Virginia: Brain Injury – a Lawyer’s Opinion
On April 20, 2012, the Associate Press reported the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion in Burns v. Gagnon 283 Va. 657 (2012), Mr. Waterman’s brain injury appeal of his $6,000,000.00+ verdict in Gloucester Circuit Court, Virginia. Dailypress.com headlined “Virginia Supreme Court orders new trial in Gloucester school fight lawsuit,” and WVEC.com headlined “New trial ordered in Gloucester school fight lawsuit”.
Also on April 20, 2012, valawyersweekly.com marqueed “School principal faces gross negligence claim” in Burns/Gagnon. Like the other online articles, it noted that Assistant Principal Travis Burns was already found liable to the crime victim for $1,250,000.00 for “simple negligence by a Gloucester jury”.
On April 23, 2012, dailypress.com followed up with more in-depth coverage of the Burns/Gagnon brain injury decision, titled “State high court rules Gloucester student should get new trial”. As its reporter observed, a jury could conclude that Assistant Principal Burns was in “utter disregard of prudence amounting to complete neglect of Gagnon’s safety;” and that "if a jury finds Burns committed gross negligence, then the damage award against him will stand and be payable by a multi-million dollar insurance policy the school system holds for him”. (emphasis added).
Crime victim Gagnon cannot collect from the student assailant, who lacks assets. He also cannot collect against the student instigator, who filed Bankruptcy.
On April 24, 2012, Daily Press published the same dailypress.com article in newsprint, but with the crime victim subtitle “Circuit court faulted for ‘refusing to instruct the jury on gross negligence’” and with the bolded block, “A key issue at the trial focused on whether (Travis) Burns, in not investigating a student’s claim that a fight involving (Gregory) Gagnon was imminent, committed simple negligence or gross negligence.” As the article also reported: “Burns told the student he would alert security and look into it, according to court testimony.” (emphasis added).