A New Jersey jury has found the town of Ridgewood legally responsible for a 13-year-old boy’s drowning in a municipal pool, awarding $10 million in damages. Nine lifeguards were on duty at the time and a witness reported the incident. For some reason, the manager sent out a search team to check around the pool and in the parking lot, but not in the pool. The primary witness in the case was an 1-year-old child, a friend of the boy.
In the summer of 2008, 13-year-old Soo Hyeon Park, his parents, and nine-year-old sister were visiting from Korea, and were staying in Ridgewood, N.J. with friends who emigrated many years ago from Korea. They were planning to drive to Rhode Island where they would spend a year while their father, Seong Wook Park, served a sabbatical as a maritime researcher. On July 15, Soo Hyeon’s mother took him, his sister and the two boys from the host family, aged 13 and 11, to the town pool.
All four children started in the shallow end, but the three boys headed out into the deep end because they wanted to climb onto a diving raft. When the 11–year-old got onto the raft he saw Soo struggling in the deep end and heard him cry out “I can’t breathe” in Korean. The boy panicked, jumped into the pool and swam toward Soo, who had already begun to go under water, but he was unable to save him.
The boy notified Soo’s sister, who in turn told her mother. They immediately went to the manager’s office next to the pool and told him that the boy had just seen someone drown. When he asked the boy where he saw this, the boy pointed out the window to the deep end. The manager ordered the lifeguards to search around the pool, in the playground and around the parking lot. When they finally searched the water 45 minutes later, they found the boy’s body at the bottom of the pool.
Two theories of liability – negligent supervision and negligent response – were presented to the jury. The first required showing that the town’s lifeguards were negligent in failing to see a swimmer in distress; the second required proving that they were negligent in conducting a land search instead of searching the pool. While the Defense argued that Soo was not in obvious distress, the Plaintiffs’ aquatics expert testified that unless a swimmer in trouble suffers a heart attack or stroke, he or she will put up a noticeable struggle.
The jury found the town liable for negligent supervision, but didn’t reach the question of whether its response was negligent. The jurors also rejected the town’s claims that the Plaintiffs were partly to blame, finding no comparative fault. The jury returned a $10 million verdict that included $4 million for Soo’s conscious pain and suffering, $2 million to each of his parents, $1 million to his sister and $1 million for the family’s loss of guidance, support and services. Neil S. Weiner a lawyer with Weiner Carroll & Strauss, located in Montvale, N.J., represented the family and did a very good job.
Source: Lawyers USA Online
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.