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Lawyers honor Butler teen wreck survivor's courage with Comeback Award

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:03 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Davanna Feyrer stands with her mother, Minnetta, at their Butler home on Friday, November 30, 2012. Davanna was in a terrible accident with an 18-wheeler when she was 10-years-old, but has made great strides in her recovery from her injuries. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Davanna Feyrer, was in a terrible accident with an 18-wheeler when she was 10-years-old, now, 14, the Butler teen has made great strides in her recovery from her injuries. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Davanna Feyrer is working on a book about the dozens of crushes she's had in her 14 years: some on local boys, some on celebrities like Nate Kress from the TV show “iCarly.” Pictures of cats and a ballet dancer adorn her bedroom.

Nearly four years ago, she suffered brain injuries so severe that she could not move or speak.

“She's our miracle,” said her mother, Minnetta Bowman, 54, of Butler Township, a special education teacher with the Ellwood City Area School District. “She impresses us every day.”

The Western Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association will honor Davanna on Tuesday with the 2012 Comeback Award, which it presents annually to the client of a member “who has shown rare courage and determination in overcoming a serious disabling injury.”

Work remains in her recovery. She can walk unassisted but moves slowly. Her speech is slow and deliberate.

“If I can survive a wreck, I can do anything,” Davanna said on Friday.

On Jan. 14, 2009, a tractor-trailer slammed into the van her mother was driving on Route 422 in Franklin Township.

Davanna remained comatose for weeks. That spring, while at Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, Dr. Ewa Brandys began treating the teenager with a drug used for Parkinson's disease. Davanna began to respond, leading to months of physical and occupational rehabilitation. More than seven months later, she returned home.

She's now a ninth-grader at Portersville Christian School in Butler County.

Davanna undergoes weekly speech and physical therapy. She completes hours of homework. Her goal, she said, is “straight Bs, at bare minimum.”

She wants to be a veterinarian and an author. She dances and plays the violin.

“I worked very hard. I kept going for my goals and achieving them.”

Her father, Dave Feyrer, said Davanna never lost her “fighting spirit” in her recovery, though she occasionally asks, “Why me?”

“That's a question I learned a long time ago I would never really find an answer to,” said Feyrer, 52, an employee of the Cranberry Home Depot store.

“She just has this great courage. She's not in any way going to be faltered by any obstacles,” said attorney Rudy Massa, whose law firm represented the family in a lawsuit against the trucking company and its driver.

Federal court documents showed that Davanna received just over $1 million in a settlement with the trucking company, Fleitas Transport Inc. of Miami, and Electric Insurance Co. to help with ongoing medical expenses, while her parents got nearly $300,000.

Two law firms — the Massa Law Group in Pittsburgh and E.J. Leizerman & Associates, a Toledo, Ohio, firm — received just over $770,000 in fees and costs. Court paperwork states that the firms lowered their contingency fee from the standard 40 percent to 33 13 percent “because of the catastrophic nature of the injuries to Feyrer and her parents.” Forty percent is typical for that type of settlement, according to Chicago personal injury attorney Alan J. Brinkmeier.

The Comeback Award includes a $1,000 donation that Davanna directed to the Children's Institute, which Massa matched, and she's hoping for a signed shirt from Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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