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$8.2 million settlement reached after woman fatally fell from West Palm Beach drawbridge

Carol Wright died Feb. 6 when she was walking her bike across Royal Park Bridge
Carol Wright, West Palm Beach drawbridge victim
Posted at 11:47 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 18:21:34-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A West Palm Beach law firm announced the details Friday involving a settlement following the death of a 79-year-old woman who died after a drawbridge suddenly opened up while she was walking across it earlier this year.

Carol Wright died Feb. 6 when she was walking her bike across the Royal Park Bridge and it suddenly started going up.

She was just 10 feet away from the end of the bridge when she fell to her death through a gap in the road.

The bridge tender on duty at the time, Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, was arrested in March and faces a charge of one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence in Wright's death.

Wright's family filed a lawsuit in March against Florida Drawbridges Inc., (FDI) the operator of the bridge, seeking monetary damages and industry safety changes.

WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE:

Settlement announced in case involving death of woman who fell from West Palm Beach drawbridge

At Friday's presentation, attorney Lance Ivey, who represents Wright's family, announced what he called "one of the largest wrongful death settlements of its kind."

RELATED: Bridge tender texted 'I killed a lady on the bridge,' affidavit says

Details of the settlement with FDI include:

  • $8,277,000 million with be paid by FDI
  • Beginning July 1, 2022, FDI bridge tenders will be subject to criminal background checks
  • FDI has agreed to schedule recertification training with all of their current bridge tenders
  • Periodic quality audits with out-of-area supervisors
  • All bridge tenders required to watch a 23-minutes video on Wright's life

WATCH: Video FDI bridge tenders will be required to watch

Ivey said Wright's family has already donated a sizeable amount of the money from the settlement.

"The family has graciously given nearly $1 million back to the community," Ivey said.

As part of the agreement, a scholarship will be established at the University of Miami in Wright's name. The scholarship will be $30,000 annually for 30 years.

"We turned down a lot of money, saying we weren't going to agree to just to take the money and walk off into the sunset without some fundamental changes, and we got them to make those fundamental changes," Ivey said. "Hopefully at the end of the day, this never happens to another family."

Contact 5 first exposed a series of troubling mishaps on local bridges earlier this year.

MORE: Lantana bridge tender terminated after drawbridge raises with car on it | Dramatic details emerge on failed rescue in bridge death

West Palm Beach police claim Paulk, who has pleaded not guilty, failed to visually check the bridge before opening it.

Not all bridges in Florida are operated by FDI, but Ivey said he was hopeful that other agencies and municipalities would look at what FDI agreed to in an effort to increase safety.

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