This past November, the insurance company for the city of Temple Terrace,
Florida (a suburb of Tampa), settled a lawsuit stemming from the September
2012 drowning of a 15-year-old mildly autistic boy. The boy, a student
at Pepin Academy, drowned in the city’ public swimming pool during
a night-time back-to-school party. According to a
story in the Tampa Bay Times, the city’s insurance company paid $450,000
to settle the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the boy’s father.
Pepin Academy, a charter school for children with learning disabilities,
was also named in the lawsuit and paid $425,000.
Security camera footage showed the boy, who could not swim, going down
the slide in the pool’s deep end, struggling to stay afloat, and
then sinking. He apparently lay on the bottom of the pool for about five
minutes before another child finally noticed him. He spent four days on
life support at the hospital before passing away. The lawsuit charged
that the lifeguards were not attentive, the pool’s water was cloudy,
there was poor lighting, and the pool was not suited for swimming at night.
The suit also charged Pepin Academy with negligence, stating that the
school staff knew the boy could not swim and had assured the father that
his son would be properly supervised.
Accident and Lawsuit May Produce Changes
The Temple Terrace city manager blamed the accident on, among other things,
the city’s failure to accurately count the number of children in
the pool. He said that the Family Recreation Center, where the city pool
is located, would try to do a better job of counting the number of kids
using the pool during events, and would bring in extra lifeguards when
necessary. The city manager stressed public officials’ commitment
to ensuring that a similar accident never happens again at the city pool.
If no other good comes out of this accident, hopefully the lawsuit and
settlement will help save future lives so that fewer parents have to go
through what this boy’s father experienced.
Drowning Is a Common Cause of Death among Young Children
Drowning is the second leading cause of death among young children, with thousands
of more kids suffering brain damage, spinal cord problems, paralysis,
or other serious injuries due to accidents in swimming pools. These deaths
and injuries are often preventable if not for inadequate supervision,
negligent lifeguarding, defective pool gates and fences, defective pumps,
and defective pool drains. Oftentimes, the only recourse for a family
whose child has been injured or killed in a swimming pool is to bring a
wrongful death or negligence lawsuit against those responsible. A parent in this situation
should seek quality legal representation and proceed prudently.
What to Do if Your Child Dies in a Drowning Accident
If your child has died in a drowning accident, or has otherwise been injured
in a swimming pool, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately.
An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether you
have a viable claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.