$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.

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