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Fatal fall lawsuit settled

The family of a Warren woman who died as a result of a fall at Warren State Hospital has been awarded a settlement in the case.

The settlement document was filed March 9 on behalf of the family of Virginia Guiffre by attorney Laurie TeWinkle.

The agreement, which was approved by the parties and signed by Judge Gregory Hammond, called for payment of $175,000. After legal fees and costs, and paying medical bills, the family will receive $85,865.28.

According to court documents, Guiffre was volunteering with Retired Senior Volunteer Program when she was struck from behind by a door she was passing through and knocked down a flight of stairs in September 2010. She died four days later as a result of injuries sustained in that fall, according to a coroner’s report.

The door is now marked with a warning sign, according to TeWinkle, and the building is no longer used by RSVP.

According to the settlement filing, the defendant is the State Hospital for the Insane at Warren Pennsylvania (now known as) Warren State Hospital.

The original wrongful death case listed both the state hospital and Experience Inc. as defendants. Experience Inc. was previously dismissed as a defendant.

The prosecution was prepared to call up to 22 witnesses, including two experts, and asked for four days for trial.

Donal Kirwan of Forensic Human Resources, an expert witness in matters of lost earnings, prepared a statement indicating that Guiffre, had she lived another 11.6 years – “the average number of years a 77-year-old woman would be expected to live” – would have received $155,702 in Social Security retirement benefits.

Conditional payments made by Medicare toward Guiffre’s medical bills added up to $17,710.35. Those payments were taken out of the settlement amount.

Another expert who was prepared to testify on issues of property maintenance codes and building codes also prepared a statement. According to Richard Hughes of Hughes Engineering, the lack of a landing inside the door and the size of the handrail both constitute code violations and contributed to Guiffre’s fall.

He estimated the cost of bringing the location into compliance at less than $5,000.

“The parties have reached a settlement and Mrs. Guiffre’s family is happy to put this matter behind them,” TeWinkle said.

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