$4 Verdict in Anne Arundel County Drowning Case

The Maryland Daily Record yesterday reported on a $4 million verdict an Anne Arundel County jury awarded to the parents of a 5 year-old boy who drowned in the Crofton Country Club pool in 2006. The parents of Connor Freed filed suit against D.R.D. Pool Service, Inc, who managed the pool for the country club. The boy was at the pool with some family friends and was found floating in the pool after a trip to use the bathroom. The suit alleged that the pool was an adequately supervised by only one, 16 year old lifeguard with 3 weeks’ experience. It further alleged that CPR was performed incorrectly and that a defibrillator should have been used. (D.R.D. filed a cross-claim against the family friend but the jury found him not liable.)

Interestingly, the parents’ claim for the child’s conscious pain and suffering was dismissed in a pretrial ruling. I do not know all of the facts but unless he was unconscious when he hit the water, I cannot imagine how there could not be a survival action for conscious pain and suffering. [This ruling later was reversed.]

The jury award was 2,000,706 for each of the child’s parents. The 706 represents the child’s birthday of July 6th. That gives me goose bumps. Regrettably, the real recovery will only be about $1,020,000 (plus an economic damages) because that is the cap for non-economic damages in a wrongful death case with two or more beneficiaries.

If you read this blog regularly, you are tired of hearing me say this over and over again. But this jury picked an incredibly specific number as compensation for these parents. Does anyone think this is an unfair award? If the award is not unfair, why does Maryland law cap damages in these cases? It is just wrong and this is one of those cases that underscores the injustice of Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases.

Connor’s parents have started the Connor Cares Foundation whose mission is to get legislation passed for pool safety standards and get a standardizes pool rating safety system in place nationwide. It is nice that these these parents are trying to achieve some good from such a tragedy.

I have three small kids and a swiming pool. My wife and I are pretty obsessed with pool safety. We have a lot of systems to ensure safety and I am still terrifed by the pool. Every time we start to let our guard down even a little bit, I am reminded of a chilling stat: it is safer to have a gun in the home than a pool in the backyard.

  • Tony

    You get debating points by using this case as an example of the “injustice” of the cap. I’m sure if we looked, we can find examples where the cap was the only check on an otherwise ridiculous outcome (which is definitely not the current case). On the other hand, if we had judges more willing to exercise their oversight function throughout the litigation, and appellate courts that supported them, perhaps we wouldn’t need a cap.

    I, too, am still fearful of pools and children, and my son is now 10. If he went to a function, ie. a birthday party, where there was a pool involved, I made sure that every parent was on guard — not just for my son, but any other child.

    One comment about litigation strategy. The article in the Daily Record says that the defendant “cross-complained” against the family friend. My guess is that the family didn’t sue the friend and that the defendant actually filed a third-party complaint against the friend. Often carriers insist on bringing in these third parties whom the plaintiff didn’t sue. Just as often, I would have to resist filing these claims where I thought it would undercut a valid defense, or would simply look bad in front of a jury. Suing the family friend where the family didn’t just makes the defendant look worse. If the plaintiffs sued the family friend, then no harm done by cross-claiming.

  • Gabriel A. Riveros, Attorney at Law


    In response to Tony, caps are a political manifestation of the insurance industry & certain segments of the business community to limit their financial responsibility to fairly compensate families like the Connor’s and everyone in between with less tragic injuries.

    If we are going to have a cap, how about a mandatory minimum as well? For example if the cap is $1.2M, how about a mandatory minimum of $500K? Would the insurance industry lobby for this too? Not likely…

    As for ridiculous verdicts, I hope your previous message poster never finds himself outliving his son like the Connor’s. The “legislative” caps on jury awards are what is absurd here. Some may argue that is a result of the democratic process, however, the result is certainly not fair to those who can least afford to be a part of that process.

  • Most people believe that the only way that we can know with any certainty whether and to what extent another person is experiencing pain and/or anguish is through the sufferer’s communication. People achieve this communication at several levels: non-verbal vocal (sobbing, moaning, groaning, screaming, sighing, grunting etc.); and body language. These are overt manifestations of a person exercising the ability to communicate. But, what of the brain-injured person who does not overtly convey his/her feelings? Can we assume that such individuals feel nothing, have no thoughts and are unaware of their surroundings? Certainly not; we only know that they have lost the ability to express themselves. Yet, the plaintiff’s attorney must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the client is aware of his/her predicament and is suffering pain, sever discomfort and/or mental anguis.

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