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Boy gets $15-million after playground fall

A 10-year-old District of Columbia boy who suffered brain damage after falling on an asphalt playground won a more than $15-million settlement that his attorneys say is the biggest ever in such a case.

The agreement calls for an immediate payment of $302,000 to Tyrone Ferguson, plus $125,000 for medical expenses. Beginning the day after his 11th birthday, he gets annual payments of $40,000 a year until he is 21.

After that, he gets $216,708 a year for the rest of his life. Based on a life expectancy of 68 years, that works out to $10.2-million. He also receives a guaranteed $4.3-million on top of that.

Tyrone was injured in July 1988, after he and his brother left a birthday party in the Lincoln-Westmoreland Apartments in northwest Washington to play on the playground nearby.

He fell from an 8-foot arched climber, his head striking the asphalt surface below.

The boy lapsed into a weeklong coma. Doctors found internal bleeding and damage to the frontal lobe of Tyrone's brain, resulting in extreme hyperactivity and an impaired ability to resist impulsive actions.

That means Tyrone is prone to acting on whatever urge he feels _ be it hitting someone or setting a fire.

The injury changed Tyrone from a quiet boy other children jokingly called "Professor Tyrone" into a child who will need constant supervision and increasingly stronger medication for hyperactivity, said his mother, Karen Ferguson.

There is no medical treatment, however, for the impulsiveness. Tyrone's attorney, Mark J. Brice, said Tyrone eventually will have to live in a residential-care facility.

Thursday's settlement came 11 years after the Consumer Product Safety Commission said that asphalt, concrete and packed earth are unsafe playground surfaces and should be replaced with wood chips, sand or rubber matting.

Three years before Tyrone's fall, an inspection had revealed safety problems on the playground, but improvements were never made, Brice said. Since the lawsuit was filed, a bed of mulch and shredded wood was placed beneath the equipment.