WESTERN CITY – 11/16/2001: The family of a 7-year-old girl who drowned at a YMCA pool in October filed a lawsuit against the organization on Thursday, alleging negligence and carelessness caused the death of [victim]. The lawsuit, filed for [victim]'s parents, [father] and [mother], says the girl was under water at least eight minutes directly in front of the lifeguard's elevated chair at the YMCA on [street address].
[Plaintiff attorney 1], who with [plaintiff attorney 2] represents the family, said lab tests show [victim] may have been under water as long as 20 minutes on Oct. 26. She was unconscious when she was pulled from the pool and never woke. She was on life support equipment at [medical center] for eight hours and died 10 hours after her family decided to remove the equipment, the lawsuit says.
[YMCA spokeswoman] and [defense attorney], an attorney for the office representing the YMCA, declined comment. [YMCA Spokeswoman] said the 18-year-old lifeguard on duty when the drowning occurred was put on leave after the incident. [YMCA Spokeswoman] said she would remain on leave until an investigation of the drowning is completed.
[Victim] was one of nine children at the pool, [defense attorney] said. The kids were part of a YMCA after-school program that normally took place at their school, [name] Elementary, but was at the YMCA that day because of staffing shortages.
[Victim] could not swim and her parents did not know she would be in a pool that is 6 feet deep, [attorney 1] said. No flotation devices were provided for [victim].
The lawsuit asks the YMCA to reimburse funeral and medical expenses as well as compensate the family for the loss. It also asks that the YMCA be assessed a civil fine.”
WESTERN CITY – 11/13/2002: What is the value of a child's life? That was the subject of an emotional hearing yesterday before Superior Court Judge [name] in the accidental drowning of a 7-year-old girl in a [city] YMCA pool on Oct. 26, 2001.
Attorneys for the YMCA are seeking a new trial or a reduction of the verdict for compensatory damages awarded at trial two months ago. The jury gave [parents’ names], the parents of [victim], $8 million in compensatory damages. No punitive damages were awarded.
After more than an hour of arguments yesterday, [superior court judge] took the matter under advisement.
[Name], an attorney representing the YMCA, said $8 million is excessive. She argued that the verdict should be comparable to awards in other recent cases involving the deaths of minor children. She said $8 million was offered because the jury was “tainted” during the punitive portion of the trial.
[YMCA’s attorney] cited several [state] court cases involving the deaths of minors in which settlements reached a quarter or less of the amount of the [victim] verdict. She said the parents, who attended yesterday's hearing, were of good character and were loving parents deeply affected by the death. But there is no evidence that their grief required counseling, she said. Nor did the couple show evidence of mental health problems or marital problems resulting from their child's death. And there was no evidence of lost wages.
Attorney [name], who, with attorney [name], represents the [victims’ parents], placed a poster-sized photo of the girl on an easel in the courtroom. He defended the jury's verdict, indicating the members, whose average age was 56, knew exactly what they were doing. “Old people know plenty about grief,” [plaintiff attorney] said. And there was [sic] plenty of aggravated circumstances, especially during the 10 hours between the time the child was disconnected from life support and the time she died.
“That is the window into hell,” [plaintiff attorney] said. “If (jury members) were tainted, why didn't they give us the punitive damages we so much wanted?” And he chided the defense counsel for characterizing [victim] as “a” child. If [victim] could come back, she would say “shame on you for calling her 'a' child.”
“Do not compare. Each child is unique,” he said, urging the court to “respect” what (jurors) have done. “This is not a discount court,” [plaintiff attorney] added. “This young lady is personally dead. She's not coming back.”
WESTERN CITY – 11/23/2002: The parents of a 7-year-old girl who drowned at a YMCA pool will receive the $8 million that a jury awarded them. A judge on Friday denied the YMCA's request for a new trial. YMCA attorneys claimed the September jury award was excessive.
[Victim] was unconscious when she was pulled from the YMCA pool Oct. 25, 2001. She died the next day after she was taken off life support.
The child's parents claimed the lifeguard didn't see [victim] slip underwater, where she remained for 20 minutes, according to testimony.
[Name] County Superior Court judge [name] said the jury's verdict was reasonable.
(some of this information was gleaned from published newspaper articles not included above)
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