$975,000: Eight Year Old Boy Drowns And Family Collects For His Wrongful Death
June 7, 2010
CASE DESCRIPTION: Plaintiffs’ eight year old son was on a school sponsored excursion when he drowned at the Santa Fe Dam. Plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action against the school, USC Shen Win Chinese Institute, under the theory of negligent supervision. USC Shen Win Chinese Institute cross complained against the County of Los Angeles.
RESULT: $975,000.00 total settlement
This litigation arose from a drowning incident on July 12, 2001, at Santa Fe Dam. Decedent, an eight year old boy, participated on a field trip sponsored by his school, the USC Shen Win Chinese Institute.
Plaintiffs contended that the USC Shen Win Chinese Institute was liable for gross negligence in the supervision of Decedent. Plaintiff contended that USC Shen Win Chinese Institute did not have a system to ensure that their children were watched in the Santa Fe Dam. On that day, it was estimated over 75 children from the school went into the waters of the Santa Fe Dam. Nonetheless, it was established that the school did not send any members of the school into the water with the children. Plaintiffs established that the children were supervised by an inadequate amount of adults who stood at the shoreline of the Santa Fe Dam. Furthermore Plaintiffs established, through aggressive discovery, that the adult supervisors who did stay at the shoreline could not swim.
Plaintiffs also established that the school employed a teacher that was a life guard but failed to bring him on the subject field trip.
Plaintiffs, through expert testimony, established that the state established supervisory ratio between adults and children was not met by the school. Plaintiffs alleged that the school had no coordinated system of supervision. As such, on the day of the incident, there was no particular supervisor assigned to specifically supervise the Decedent. Furthermore, the Decedent, along with many other students that attended the Santa Fe Dam function that day, did not know how to swim. Plaintiffs established that the school did not perform any screening of its students to determine swimming ability. Moreover, the school did not encourage the children to stay in any particular water depth based on their swimming ability. The school also did not employ a proper “buddy check” system between the supervisors and the children. Rather, the school left it to the children themselves to find their own buddy on the day of the incident.
Plaintiffs further alleged that the parents of the Decedent were not informed that their child was going to be offered “swimming” as an activity on the day of the incident. Plaintiffs alleged that the field trip was marketed as a “barbecue” pursuant to the school’s literature. In fact due to a prior postponement of the field trip, Plaintiffs alleged that the parents were not even informed that their son was attending the subject field trip on the day of the incident.
USC Shen Win Chinese Institute denied Plaintiffs allegations of negligent supervision. Defendant contended that the children were supervised in the water by an adequate amount of supervisors. Defendants contended that they instituted a buddy system on the day of the incident. Defendants contended that they verbally told the students and parents that swimming would be one of the activities offered on the day of the incident.
Defendant, USC Shen Win Chinese Institute, also claimed that the County of Los Angeles was partially responsible for the incident due to the fact that they had concrete mounds in the waters of the Santa Fe Dam (a theory originally advanced by Plaintiffs but voluntarily dismissed due to inadequate evidence.) USC Shen Win contended that the Decedent tripped on the concrete mound in the water and lost consciousness causing the incident. The County of Los Angeles was able to summarily defeat USC Shen Win’s contentions immediately prior to the trial date.
TYPE OF CASE: Wrongful Death of minor child
INJURIES: Anthony Q. drowned.
DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 7/12/01 at 2: 30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Dam.
PLAINTIFF’S AGE: 8 at time of the incident.
OCCUPATION: Deceased – Student
Christopher R. Aitken
AITKEN * AITKEN * COHN
For Plaintiffs – Hoa Q., Mindy L., and Estate of Anthony Q.
MURCHINSON & CUMMINGS
For Defendants – USC Shen Win Chinese Institute
VEATCH, CARLSON, GROGAN & NELSON
For Defendant – County of Los Angeles