Sang wins big victory in compensation battle

NEW YORK – Former Chinese gymnast Sang Lan, who was paralyzed in a fall at the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, scored a major victory on Monday after reaching an agreement with three insurance companies and USA Gymnastics.

Under a confidential deal inked on Monday afternoon after a three-hour discussion, TIG Insurance Co, Riverstone Claims Management and TIG Specialty Insurance Solutions agreed to cover future medical and rehabilitation fees for Sang in both the United States and China.

The three insurance firms had previously paid Sang only for fees incurred in the US and not in China after she was paralyzed during a vault warm-up on July 21, 1998, at the Goodwill Games.

In the deal, the three insurers agreed to give an undisclosed amount of money to Sang in addition to the insurance she will receive. Both Sang and her lawyer Hai Ming were not allowed to disclose the exact sum.

But the total insurance Sang would be covered for could amount to $10 million, according to Sang’s lawyer Hai Ming.

“It was a big day of victory in protecting my rights. Now I have (a financial) guarantee for my treatment back in China starting from today,” said Sang.

“I have got what I want. The agreement we reached today with the insurers and USA Gymnastics has clearly stated that the accident was not my fault.”

During her warm-ups at the 1998 Goodwill Games, Sang landed on her head, fractured and dislocated two vertebrae in her neck and injured her spinal cord. She is paralyzed from the chest down and has spent 13 years in a wheelchair.

On Monday, she said rumors circulating on the Web blaming the accident on her lack of skill have placed her under a lot of pressure. She described the discussions on Monday as proceeding “very smoothly” and being conducted in a “friendly mood”.

Hai also described the deal as “a day of breakthrough victory. We got all of what we desired”.

“The even greater significance has been that the USA Gymnastics and the three insurers stated in the agreement that Sang Lan should not be held responsible for the accident,” Hai added.

He said the three insurers have apologized for the lack of care for Sang over the past 13 years, though lawyers and representatives from the three insurers and USA Gymnastics would not comment on the agreement.

Despite the deal, Sang implied on Monday that she was not done in her fight for her disability rights, saying that she achieved “half of the complete success” in protecting her rights.

Sang’s lawyer Hai filed lawsuits at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against three individuals and five institutions at the end of April, seeking $1.8 billion in compensation.

The defendants include media mogul Ted Turner, who created the Goodwill Games; USA Gymnastics; AOL Time Warner Inc (which is now defunct); TIG Insurance Co; and Xie Xiaohong and Liu Guosheng, two legal guardians appointed to Sang after the fall.

Sang and her lawyer wanted $100 million in compensation for each of the 18 claims filed, including breach of agreement, violation of various federal, state and city laws, insurance violations and negligence.

But additional claims, which were filed in mid-May against Xue Weisen, son of the two guardians, for sexual harassment, and against Hugh Mo, a Chinese-American lawyer representing the two guardian defendants, momentarily brought the total compensation sought to $2.1 billion.

Then on June 20, Hai withdrew the lawsuit against Turner. On June 27, the civil complaint against Xue was dropped. On June 28, the lawsuit against Time Warner was dropped.

Hai told reporters on Monday that 12 lawsuits are still in progress against Mo, Liu Guosheng, Xie Xiaohong and 15 people who defamed Sang on the Internet. He said Sang is now seeking $1.2 billion.

Mo told China Daily on Monday he has already moved to dismiss Hai’s cases. He is also expected to submit another motion of sanction against Hai Ming to the local court on Tuesday.

Mo, who once worked as the assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, declined to elaborate on the cases.

Source: China Daily

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