TAMPA — Three years ago, a jury told Idlewild Baptist Church to pay $4.75 million to a teenager and his family after the teen was severely injured on a church ski trip. That verdict was later vacated by a judge, and in a retrial this week, Idlewild was found not at fault in the 2003 accident that left the teenager with damage to his leg. A church official said he wasn’t surprised with the verdict. “We’re obviously pleased with the decision,” said Brian McDougall, executive pastor at Idlewild.
Damian Mallard, the attorney for the teen, wouldn’t comment about the verdict. He said both sides did reach a settlement in which the church’s insurance provider would pay $825,000. In December 2003, the teenager went on a ski trip with the Lutz church to Beech Mountain, N.C. Although he had never skied before, organizers assured the boy’s mother he would receive instruction, Mallard said. The teen, though, ended up on an advanced slope and crashed into another skier at about 55 mph. The teen, identified in court papers only as J.J., suffered fractures to his spine and nerve damage to his left leg. He was left with a permanent limp. In the 2010 trial, the jury awarded $5 million to the teen and his mother, Kim Jones. The jury found the church was 95 percent responsible for the accident and assigned the remaining responsibility to Jones, a calculation that meant the church had to pay $4.75 million. Hillsborough Circuit Judge James D. Arnold, however, vacated that verdict because two jurors failed to disclose previous litigation history that might have prevented them from being on the jury, Mallard said. McDougall said he keeps the boy in his thoughts and prayers. “We’re going to continue to pray for the well-being of the then-student that was injured on the trip in 2003,” McDougall said. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7659 Twitter: @jpatinoTBO