MUNCIE, INDIANA — Two-year-old Bryan Whitesell’s life changed forever during a visit to his grandparent’s house near Farmland in August, 2008.
Bryan’s grandfather, Jay Morrison, was mowing the yard with a riding lawnmower when the child headed toward him. Morrison did not see his grandchild and backed over him with the mower blades still running. Morrison picked up his grandson and brought him to the house. Bleeding severely from lacerations to his legs, genitals, and abdomen, Bryan was airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where he underwent lengthy and complex surgeries to repair the traumatic injuries.
Bryan later spent weeks in intensive care and underwent several reconstructive surgeries. (More are still planned.) Afterward, doctors said Bryan would never father a child because his penis, testes, and scrotum were ripped off by the mower.
Faced with over $500,000 in medical bills and another $250,000 yet to come, Bryan’s parents, Jessica Morrison and Christopher Whitesell, faced a monumental decision involving Jessica’s parents, who owned J&D Trucking & Excavation, on how to care for her son.
“It was a debate on whether we had to sue the grandparents and the grandparents’ company, or go after the insurance company that represented them,” said attorney Jason Delk, who represented Bryan and his parents. Delk, assisted by attorneys Mike and Jon Quirk, went to the insurer of Jay Morrison’s trucking company, Westfield Insurance, and sought a settlement, seeking the policy limits of their coverage at $2.85 million. The accident happened on property owned by Morrison, and his wife, Deborah, and used by their trucking company.
The legal team also drafted a guardianship and trust agreement that would ensure Bryan’s medical bills and other needs would be met until he reached 23 years old.
Jessica Morrison testified this week before Delaware Circuit Court 1 Judge Marianne Vorhees about a settlement where Westfield agreed to pay its policy limits to fund the trust and end its liability in the case. She testified she wasn’t sure of the long-term psychological and mental injuries the child might suffer from the loss of his genitals. But she was confident that the settlement and the annuity funding his care would provide for Bryan’s long-term needs.
Vorhees approved the $2.85 million settlement and establishment of the trust. Westfield’s attorney Jane Malloy of Fort Wayne did not respond to telephone calls about the settlement.
According to the trust agreement, $1.45 million of the settlement will pay attorneys and MutualBank/Mutual Wealth, the guardian of Bryan’s estate, and settle a $29,317 Medicaid lien. Bryan was initially covered by Medicaid but lost that coverage with the settlement.
Another $1.395 million will be used to purchase an annuity contract that will make payments to Bryan for his medical bills and needs. During the lifetime of the annuity, more than $9 million should be available for his care, according to Delk.
“We got the best result possible,” said Delk of the settlement.
Though they still don’t know how many more reconstructive surgeries Bryan needs or how the life-altering injuries might impact him, Jessica and her family are hopeful of resuming a normal life, said Delk.
Bryan is now three years old and starting pre-school in Randolph County. His mother plans to eventually move back to Delaware County.
“He looks like a normal, healthy, three-year-old boy,” said Delk.