FAIRBANKS — A Tennessee woman who broke her ankle after falling in a slippery Fort Wainwright parking lot has been awarded $250,000 from the federal government after a lengthy court battle.
The federal government and Fairbanks attorney Robert Sparks came to the agreement earlier this week after a brief settlement conference before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess.
Carol Bolt was stationed at Fort Wainwright with her husband, a soldier, in April 1999 when she was injured. On April 1, as the winter's ice and snow were melting, Bolt went to throw a garbage bag in a communal trash container off Neely Road when she slipped and fell, breaking her right ankle. Sparks filed a federal lawsuit filed in 2002, claiming the Army acted negligently in providing no snow removal in the neighborhood during the winter. Bolt reportedly still walks with a limp following the fall. The original lawsuit claimed she could not continue her career as a hairstylist and suffered emotional damages.
The lawsuit was filed after the Army rejected an initial claim for $200,000 in damages. The federal government denied most of Bolt’s accusations, claiming she was completely at fault for her injuries. As the case wound through the federal court system, it was dismissed once by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline. It was sent back to him following a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year, Beistline ruled the government was 50 percent negligent in causing Bolt’s injuries, but he made no ruling about how much she was owed.
“I think it’s frankly outrageous the extent the government went to drag this out,” Sparks said Wednesday.
The government had no motivation to settle the case sooner because it does not pay interest on a judgment or cover a plaintiff’s attorney fees, he said. U.S. Attorney Stephen Cooper, who represented the government, could not be reached for comment.
Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at 459-7545.