OPINION ISSUED NOVEMBER 28, 1989
BETHEL CHILDERS AND THOMAS CHILDERS
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS
Larry G. Kopelman, Attorney at Law, for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant Bethel Childers was involved in an automobile accident on March 21, 1986, while she was
on her way to work at the Guthrie Center, Department of Agriculture, in Charleston, West Virginia.
Her vehicle was struck by an oncoming care being driven by Melinda F. Good which had slid on ice
causing the driver to lose control. As a result of this accident, she received severe injuries resulting
in hospitalization. She was eventually able to return to her employment. She and her husband
brought this action to recover medical expenses, replacement service loss, and pain and suffering.
The issue of liability was heretofore been determined by this Court in the claim of Gregory C. Good,
as Committee for Melinda F. Good v. Dept. of Highways, Opinion issued January 18, 1988. The
question before the Court is the issue of damages.
Bethel Childers suffered a concussion, lacerations to her face requiring plastic surgery, one broken
rib, both femurs were fractured in 17 places, both knees were broken, a fractured right heel, three
broken bones in the left foot, and one little finger was broken. She was in traction for the broken
femur bones for eight weeks. Pins were placed in her knees to assist in the traction treatment. A pin
was also placed in her foot. She remained in the hospital for three months. She suffered not only
pain, but also severe emotional strain throughout her hospitalization. She was in physical therapy
for four weeks to learn to walk and to learn how to use a wheelchair. She was confined to a
wheelchair for three months while she was in a body cast. After her release from the hospital, she
used a walker and then a cane to assist her in walking when the cast was removed. She had to walk
with the cane until June 1988. She was able to return to work in October 1986.
She was hospitalized again on November 11, 1987, for surgery to straighten her right leg. She was
off work until January 15, 1988. She experienced pain and suffering from this surgery which she
described as "very, very painful."
She retired from her position with the Department of Agriculture on December 31, 1988, when she
opted for early retirement.
She is able to perform light housework, but is unable to perform more difficult tasks such as using
a vacuum cleaner, painting, wallpapering, cleaning windows, etc. She is also unable to do much
gardening. She had spent much of her time in gardening as this was an activity which she considered a hobby and which she had previously enjoyed very much. She is now unable to take part in
gardening due to the physical constrains from her injuries. She is unable
to dance, play tennis or perform aerobic exercises which she had previously enjoyed. she is able to
play golf to some extent although she is unable to play as she once did. She still experiences pain
and suffering from her injuries.
Claimant Thomas Childers testified as to the changes in their lives brought about by the injuries to
his wife. He must assist her in housework and gardening. Their social life is curtailed. Many of their
activities are now limited due to her physical condition. He has adapted his life style to conform to
The Court is award of the serious injuries which claimant Bethel Childers received in this accident.
These injuries were the direct result of the combined negligence of the respondent and Melinda
Good. Claimant Bethel Childers has suffered extreme pain throughout this ordeal. She will suffer
pain throughout her life. The Court is of the opinion that she is entitled to an award of $380,000.00.
The Court also makes an award to claimant Thomas Childers in the amount of $15,000.00. Claimant
Bethel Childers has received a total of $230,000.00 from other sources. Therefore, the Court reduces
the award to $150,000.00
Award to Bethel Childers of $150,000.00.
Award to Thomas Childers of $15,000.00.