Across the US, all year round, millions of people swim for fun and recreation in backyard pools, public pools, private clubs, and beaches, ponds, and lakes. It’s not all fun and games, though. About 10 people drown each day. Usually, two of the victims are 14 years old or younger. In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children between 1 and 14 years old.
Take Soo Hyeon Park, for example. At 13 years old, he and his family (a sister and his parents) were visiting from South Korea in July 2008; they were staying with friends in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The family, together with their friends and their teenage children, visited Graydon Pool, a popular local “swimming hole” that’s owned and operated by the Village of Ridgewood. It’s spring-fed, about three acres big, has beach areas and a “deep water” area that’s at least 12 feet deep. Even the water, though clean, looks like water you’d see at the beach, not the crystal clear water you see at the local YMCA, for example.
Park and the other teenaged boys went swimming in the deep area. For some reason, Park began struggling to stay afloat and eventually went underwater. One of his friends tried to rescue him but couldn’t. Park drowned.
In the parents’ wrongful death lawsuit against the Village, they claimed it provided negligent supervision at the pool and that the lifeguards were negligent in their response to Park’s situation. The Village didn’t stand still, either. It filed a lawsuit against Park’s parents, as well as his teenaged friends and their parents, claiming they were negligent and responsible for Park’s death.
Ultimately, the Village’s claims were thrown out of court and, after nearly two years of legal wrangling and a month-long trial, a jury recently awarded $10 million to Park’s family. The jurors agreed that there was inadequate supervision at the pool. None of the nine or more lifeguards saw Park while he was struggling to stay above water. After Park’s mother alerted the lifeguards and the pool manager, the manager ordered the lifeguards to search for Park around the pool, not inside the pool. Lifeguards searched the parking lot for Park. Park was not removed from the water until 40 minutes after the manager and lifeguards were alerted
Wrongful death lawsuits have nothing to do with money. People who lose loved ones certainly know that no amount of money can bring their loved ones back. These suits are about making sure the people responsible for the deaths are held accountable. They’re also about making sure the same tragedy doesn’t happen again.
By David Baarlaer
At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury. Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com
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