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$7.25 Million Settlement Agreed To For Rodin Museum Fall

By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Inside the Rodin Museum on November 26, 2012, visitors, enjoying the quiet beauty, were startled by the sound of shattering glass. 27-year-old Phani Guthula suddenly plunged through the glass ceiling, falling 38 feet from the attic to the floor below.

"It was the most terrifying moment of his life," Guthula's attorney Larry Bendesky told Eyewitness News. "It's a more terrifying moment than most of us would ever be able to come to grips with."

Guthula, an energy efficiency engineer, was inspecting lighting fixtures when he walked onto the glass floor which gave way.

"It was just a few seconds of knowing that you're going to fall," Bendesky explained. "Then having your bones crushed and your dreams destroyed."

Guthula barely survived his injuries, spending three months in the hospital, racking up medical bills of $1.9 million. His attorney says he was led to the attic, which was not secured by a gate and had no warning signs, by a security guard who, when he asked, told him he could walk across the glass floor."

"She's actually never been up there at all," said attorney David Kwass. "And Allied Barton made a mistake in sending someone who didn't know about this hazard."

Allied Barton Security and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which owns and operates the Rodin Museum, agreed to a $7.25 million settlement Friday, just as a civil trial was about to begin. The victim's attorney says they hope the legal action sends a message to owners of all buildings used by the public.

"It's not good enough to say 'watch out for yourself'," Kwass told Eyewitness News. "You have to speak up. You have to let your visitors know about it."

Attorneys for the security firm and the Art Museum did not immediately respond to a request by Eyewitness News for comment.

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