BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A settlement has been reached in the wrongful death lawsuit of Luke Bresette, a 10-year-old boy killed by a falling 300 pound flight display board at the Birmingham airport last year.
The Bresettes were traveling through Birmingham to return to their home in Overland Park, Kansas from a spring break vacation in March 2013 when the flight display board fell on several of the family members.
Luke Bresette died from his injuries. His mother and two of his brothers were also injured by the falling flight display board.
The Bresettes sued various contractors involved in the airport's recent renovation, saying those contractors didn't properly install the display signs. They later acknowledged Luke's death was a horrible accident.
The defendents named in the lawsuit included Brasfield & Gorrie, BLOC and the Joint Venture, Fish Construction and KPS Architects.
The settlement in the lawsuit was announced in a hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Wednesday morning.
The settlement terms are being kept confidential, but the family's attorney says the amount is reasonable, considering the losses the family suffered.
The entire Bresette family was present for the hearing: Luke's father Ryan, his mother Heather and his siblings 16-year-old Anna Kathleen, 14-year-old Joseph, 10-year-old Samuel and 7-year-old Tyler.
Ryan Bresette said it was bittersweet to return to Birmingham for the first time since losing his son 18 months ago.
"It's nice to come back and have closure to this chapter of our life. But it's painful to come back. It's painful to come back to where so much happened in just a matter of seconds," Ryan Bresette said.
Heather Bresette said there are constant reminders of Luke, a quick-witted sports lover.
"It's been a long road. I do still have pain continuously but I don't focus on that," Heather Bresette said.
Instead, she says she focuses on the positives, including her four other children and on remembering Luke, who she lovingly described as a little "imp."
Ryan Bresette said they still hung his stocking last Christmas and took a tree out to his grave.
"He was just a bundle of joy," he said.
The Bresettes also thanked Birmingham residents for their outpouring of love during a time of tragedy.
"From March 22nd on, this city has been a symbol of love and support and we didn't know them and they didn't know us, but they were here us in the time we needed it," Ryan Bresette said.
"From the cards to the food to the prayers, we knew it, we felt it and are very appreciative of it," Heather Bresette added.
The Birmingham Airport Authority, which was not part of the lawsuit, will commission a memorial likeness of Luke that will be placed in the airport. It's intended not to be a reminder of the tragedy, but rather a celebration of young life.
Al Denson, President and CEO of the BAA, said he was pleased that there was some closure for the Bresette family.
"It's been emotional for everyone in the airport community. It was anunfortunate, tragic event and closure has taken place to a certain extent andwe hope this will not happen again," Denson said.
"The airport community will always be mindful of whathappened and will keep the Bresette family in their prayers," he added.
The Bresette's family attorney Tim Dollar and Ryan Bresette read the following statements at the press conference on Wednesday:
Attorney Tim Dollar's statement
On March 22, 2013, the Bresette family endured a devastating tragedy and ten year old Luke Bresette lost his life. In June of last year, a lawsuit was filed which sought to determine the truth and assign responsibility. I am pleased to report today that those goals have been achieved and the lawsuit has been settled.
The terms of the settlement, by agreement and out of respect for the privacy of the family are confidential. I can say that the amount of compensation paid is reasonable and commensurate with the losses suffered by the family. I can also say that each defendant has acknowledged that mistakes were made and have accepted responsibility for their respective roles that contributed to the tragedy. More importantly, I am pleased to report that each defendant has taken specific steps to analyze the failures that may have occurred and have agreed to make concrete changes to ensure that similar tragedies are avoided in the future.
Additionally, I am pleased to report that the Birmingham Airport Authority has graciously offered to commission the creation of a memorial likeness of Luke to be placed at the airport. It is not intended as a reminder of the tragedy, but rather a celebration of a young life and a reminder to all of the need to treasure each day with one another.
I wish to express my appreciation to Judge Tom King, Jr. for presiding over this litigation. His attention to this matter and sound rulings assisted all parties in arriving at this result. He is a testament to the value of an independent and impartial judiciary.
I want to thank our legal team for their hard work including most notably my Alabama counsel Jeff Friedman without whom these results would not be possible. But I also want to express appreciation to the Brasfield and Gorrie/Bloc team and their counsel, as well as counsel for the other defendants. At all times, they conducted themselves professionally and ethically and cooperated with us throughout the investigation to determine the truth. It has been clear throughout this process that they remained committed to reaching a resolution that was in the best interests of all concerned, including the community of Birmingham.
In light of the criticism that is often levied at our system of civil justice, this case is proof that while flawed at times, the system can and does work.
Ryan Bresette's statement
Thank you Tim. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here this morning.
We want to begin by expressing our appreciation to the city of Birmingham and our hometown of Kansas City for the way each community responded to our family. In addition, we are appreciative of the many thoughts, prayers and support for our family from those around the nation and the world. The outpouring of love and support is what aided us to get out of bed each day and continue on. We are also grateful to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Board for the compassion and professionalism shown to our family during the days following the incident and the legal process.
We would like to thank the media for respecting our privacy during this horrible tragedy.
We want to thank our legal team for doing what they promised to do from the first day we hired them. They promised to be Luke's voice and they have fulfilled that promise to our family.
We are extremely pleased that we were able to resolve the matter under confidential terms. We embarked upon this part of our journey in an effort to get to the truth and to assign responsibility. I am particularly grateful to the Brasfield and Gorrie/Bloc team and their counsel for their cooperation in this investigation, for acknowledging that mistakes were made, and for engaging in an open dialog [sic] about these events in order to see that steps are taken to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
We have always relied upon our faith to provide guidance, direction, and strength in raising our family. Quite frankly, our faith, was the only thing that allowed us to survive the events and the aftermath of March 22, 2013. And while our faith teaches us the importance of personal accountability, it also teaches us about the need for forgiveness. Luke also believed in forgiveness – asking for forgiveness or forgiving others. The individuals who make up the companies involved here are good and decent people who never intended this result. Nevertheless mistakes were made and there has now been accountability and repentance. Our family in return extends forgiveness.
Heather and I are also here today with our children Anna, Joe, Sam and Tyler. Our children have been an incredible source of strength for Heather and me. They have been incredibly resilient and it is obvious to us that Luke is smiling down on his sister and his brothers.
It is time for healing and reconciliation. We miss Luke every hour of every day and we will never forget Luke. Our family intends to move forward now and focus our efforts on promoting the "Live Like Luke" foundation in order to encourage young people to be the best they can be. We miss you Luke and we love you so, so very much. Thank you again.
Brasfield & Gorie/BLOC released the following statement on the settlement:
The Brasfield & Gorrie/BLOC team has always been committed to doing what is right for the Bresette family and our community. On behalf of the Brasfield & Gorrie/BLOC team, we are pleased to report that the lawsuit has been settled. The specific terms are, by agreement, private and confidential.
The Bresettes are a wonderful family that endured a devastating tragedy on March 22, 2013. The Brasfield & Gorrie/BLOC team cooperated with the family throughout the lawsuit investigation. We have worked together to have an open dialog about the events leading up to the accident and steps that can be taken in the future to prevent anything like this from happening again.
We continue to pray for the Bresette family's physical and emotional healing.