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 sued D.R.D. Pool Service, Inc, who managed the pool for the country club. The boy was at the pool with some family friend, who found him floating in the pool after a trip to use the bathroom. The suit alleged that the pool was inadequately supervised by only one 16-year-old lifeguard who had 3 weeks’ experience. It further alleged that they incorrectly performed CPR and that they should have used a defibrillator. (D.R.D. filed a cross-claim against the family friend but the jury found him not liable.)
Interestingly, a pretrial ruling dismissed the parents’ claim for the child’s conscious pain and suffering. I do not know all 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 goosebumps. Regrettably, the real recovery will only be about $1,020,000 (plus 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 repeatedly. But this jury picked a specific number to compensate 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 case 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 standardized pool rating safety system in place nationwide. It is nice that these parents are trying to achieve some good from such a tragedy.
I have three small kids and a swimming pool. My wife and I are pretty obsessed with pool safety. We have a lot of systems to ensure safety and I am still terrified by the pool. Every time we let our guard down even a bit, I am reminded of a chilling stat: it is safer to have a gun in the home than a pool in the backyard.