Salem parents receive $1.2 settlement for disabled son's fall

The parents of a wheelchair-bound man from Salem have received a $1.2 million settlement for injuries their son suffered when his wheelchair rolled off an unguarded walkway at a business in Norwich.

Rita and Tim Grant had sued the owner of the Norwich Discount Liquor shopping plaza at 273 W. Main St. on behalf of their 23-year-old son Tony, who has cerebral palsy. The property, which includes three businesses, was owned by Peter James, who died while the lawsuit was pending.

According to the Grants' attorney, Dale P. Faulkner, the case was set to go to trial in July when the parties agreed on the settlement. The deal received the necessary approval of Probate Judge Jeffrey A. McNamara on Aug. 23, Faulkner said.

Rita Grant had taken her son, who is blind, unable to speak and confined to his wheelchair, for a hair cut at Cost Cutters on Aug. 25, 2009, according to a court document. Grant pushed the wheelchair up the concrete walkway leading to the salon and was near the door when an elderly woman asked for help opening the door. Grant removed her hand from the wheelchair and turned away to help the woman. The wheelchair rolled to the end of the walkway and fell more than three feet, critically injuring Tony Grant, who was belted into the wheelchair.

A railing that previously had stood at the end of the walkway had been removed in violation of state building code, according to Faulkner. The railing since has been replaced. The stanchion that had supported the railing was still in place.

Tony Grant suffered facial fractures, the loss of four teeth and a section of jawbone, and cuts and bruises. He was airlifted to Hartford Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his face and suffered a grand mal seizure. After he was discharged, he required extensive treatment for a bedsore, according to Faulkner, who said the medical bills were just over $100,000.

Faulkner said the defendants attempted to assign a portion of the blame to Rita Grant but that Superior Court Judge Emmet Cosgrove issued a ruling that eliminated the claim. Cosgrove ruled that the mother had parental immunity, even though Tony Grant was an adult, due to his medical needs. The rule of parental immunity usually applies only to children under 18.

Attorney Patrice Noah, who represented the business's insurance company, could not be reached for comment.

Faulkner said the Grants, who have shaped their entire life around the care of their son, would be using some of the settlement money to improve his life.

"The parents are planning to have a handicapped bathroom and an in-door pool installed," Faulkner said. "Because Tony spends so much time in his wheelchair, the pool will strengthen his arms and legs."


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