Wash. official seeks $500,000 for 'stress ball' eye injury

Wash. official seeks $500,000 for 'stress ball' eye injury »Play Video
Councilwoman Jeanne Harris (center) in a file photo.

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A Vancouver, Wash., city councilwoman is seeking $500,000 from the nearby city of Ridgefield, contending that city's mayor injured her left eye with an errant toss of a foam "stress ball."

Councilwoman Jeanne Harris says Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow's toss in June 2011 caused her left retina to become loose and partially detached. She says she faces a potential loss of sight in the eye. She told The Columbian she has had six unsuccessful surgeries on it.

The ball toss happened after the stress relievers were distributed at an Association of Washington Cities meeting in Spokane. Onslow says he lobbed his ball at a Ridgefield councilman but hit the side of Harris' face. He says he apologized.

The newspaper says Harris has health insurance. Her lawyer, Joseph Daggy, says the claim amount was chosen because it may be enough to compensate her for what the lawyer describes as a serious injury. The claim has been referred to the city's insurance agency.

On Friday, Onslow told KATU News Harris was the unintended target.

"It hit her in the temple and it shocked her at the time, surprised her because she didn’t know it was coming. Of course it wasn't intentional," he said.

Intentional or not, Daggy said by phone that it hurt.

"She had pain immediately and she tried to maintain and be reasonable about it," he said.

In her claim, Harris cited Ridgefield City Councilor David Taylor, Washougal City Councilor Paul Greenlee and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard as witnesses.

KATU News couldn't reach Taylor but Greenlee said he's "mystified" and doesn't remember the incident at all.

Guard said he was in a "different part of the facility" at the time and didn't see the throw so he couldn't comment on its force.

Onslow said he's apologetic.

"I suppose if you hit anything at the right spot at the right time, something might happen," he said.

While the insurance claim asks for $500,000, Daggy said Friday he'll be revising that and will ask for more money for medical expenses, wage losses and pain and suffering.

Harris was wearing contact lenses at the time of impact, which may have contributed to the injury.