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$3.26-Million Settlement OKd in '84 Pier Accident

March 26, 1987

The county Board of Supervisors has approved a record personal injury settlement, granting $3.26 million to a Redondo Beach man paralyzed after a piece of concrete fell from the Manhattan Beach Pier and struck him on the back.

The award to George Benda, 49, ends a two-year lawsuit by the victim, who claimed that pieces of concrete were known to have fallen from the dilapidated pier before his accident. Benda originally sued for $20 million, and the case was scheduled to go to trial April 6.

Lost Control of Lower Body

Benda, who was a self-employed electrical contractor when the mishap occurred in 1984, lost control of all bodily functions below his rib cage after he was struck by a 150-pound chunk of concrete while exercising on the beach beneath the pier, county attorneys said.

The accident occurred one month after county employees inspected the pier in response to reports of falling concrete and pronounced it structurally sound but in need of repair, according to John J. Collins, an attorney representing the county.

Collins told the board that Benda has lost $75,000 in expected earnings so far, and will lose another $649,000 in earnings in the future. Collins estimated Benda's lifetime medical expenses at $1.7 million.

The Manhattan Beach Pier is owned by the state but has been operated and maintained by the county since 1956. The written agreement between the state and county expired in 1981, but the county continued to maintain the pier until last October.

State Maintaining Pier

The state is now maintaining the pier, but is trying to persuade the county to reassume that responsibility. The pier will either be restored or replaced, but the state is not expected to make that decision until a maintenance agreement is worked out, said Michael Daly, a Manhattan Beach administrative analyst.

The sand beneath the pier was fenced off after Benda's accident and netting was placed under the portion of the pier closest to the shore to catch any falling debris.

The county replaced the pier's handrails, curbs and drinking fountains last summer and repaired the bait stations. The state has replaced some of the benches. "Right now, it's probably in the nicest shape it's been in for 10 to 15 years," Daly said, "except for the structural problems."

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