The family of a boy who fell through a safety railing onto his head during an athletic event at West High School in Billings has settled their lawsuit against the district.
The undisclosed settlement amount will be paid by the district’s insurer and there is no expenditure of district funds, according to court records.
Nikki and Pat Zimmer of Worden were attending a March 2018 volleyball tournament at the school with their young son. The tournament was sponsored by the non-profit Amateur Athletic Union and hosted at the high school.
The boy was in the gym’s mezzanine area when he fell through a railing 10 to 15 feet to the gym floor below, court records state.
He was first rushed to Billings Clinic hospital and then airlifted to Children’s Hospital in suburban Denver. Doctors there said the boy suffered a “significant skull fracture” that required surgery, along with bruising and spinal injuries, the family suit states.
Medical expenses topped $100,000, the suit stated.
The family’s attorneys argued the horizontal railings on the mezzanine are spaced too far apart and “create an unsafe and attractive” hazard.
Since the accident, modifications to the safety railing have been designed by engineers and the railings will be brought up to current code, Billings School District Superintendent Greg Upham.
The AAU, which sponsored the volleyball event, was also named in the lawsuit and has also settled with the family, records said. Michael Johnson, a Billings attorney representing AAU wouldn’t say how much its part of the settlement is, or if the amount was equivalent to the school district’s amount.
In 2019, a West High athlete's family settled a lawsuit against the district after alleging she was racially discriminated against following a five-game suspension.
The family of a wrestler injured during practice at Senior High School settled a lawsuit against the district in 2017 for $30,000.
In 2016, the district settled a suit from a family whose 7-year-old suffered a skull fracture when she fell into a window well while playing during recess at Broadwater Elementary.