PJ BLOGGER

Family of drowned teen seeking $30M

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Monday, August 4, 2008
Last updated: Monday August 4, 2008, EDT 7:14 PMBY EVONNE COUTROSSTAFF WRITERThe family of a teenager who drowned in a Ridgewood pool last month plans to seek $30 million in damages from the village, according to an “intent to sue” notice sent to officials.

The notice of claim for negligence, personal and psychological injury was filed late last week by the attorney for the estate of Soo Hyeon Park, 14, against the village after the July 15 drowning at Graydon Pool.

It names the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, lifeguards, the lifeguard supervisor, Village Manager James Ten Hoeve, Mayor David Pfund, and the Village Council as employees at fault or who can assist in identifying those at fault for Soo’s drowning in 12-feet of water.

Neil S. Weiner, the attorney for the estate, said the village is at fault.

“As owner and operator of a public swimming facility, the Village of Ridgewood failed to provide Soo Hyeon Park with a safe swimming environment and as a result, he tragically lost his life.”

The notice of claim for damages is a preliminary procedure, said Village Attorney Matthew S. Rogers. A suit can not be filed for six months according to state statute, Rogers said.

“We anticipated it being filed,” Rogers said. “There’s nothing in there that shocks us or in unexpected. It’s a period of time whether they want to file a lawsuit.”

Soo Hyeon Park, his younger sister, and his parents Youn What Jung and Seong Wook Park, had day passes to the pool, the notice says. When Soo began to swim toward a diving platform where his two friends had climbed, he began to struggle and cried out for help. One of the friends tried to swim from the platform in an effort to rescue him, but was unable to, calling out to the teen’s mother at the shallow end of the pool then running over to a lifeguard to say Soo was drowning, the notice says.

“The female lifeguard then sought out guidance from an older, male lifeguard,” who asked the Soo’s friend a series of biographical questions about Soo, the notice says. The boy was telling the lifeguard his friend was drowning, the notice says.

The lifeguard instructed the boy to yell out Soo’s name on a megaphone because he may have since gotten out of the pool and when there was no response to the calls, the lifeguards instructed all swimmers to get out of the pool. It was at the point that the lifeguard entered the pool for the first time, the notice says.

The village was negligent in safeguarding and providing competent lifeguards at the pool and there was a failure to train, supervise, and monitor all lifeguards and follow current policies and procedures at the facility, the notice said. That includes a failure to ensure that all swimmers are aware of the policies and procedures at Graydon that would have warned the teen and his family of the risks at Graydon.

E-mail: coutros@northjersey.com

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  1. Regardless of what position you take on this issue, did anyone think for a mintue that there was not going to be a lawsuit?

  2. Theres always some ambulance chaser willing to try…one third of 30 mil= TEN MILL for the lawyer if successful. I didnt realize the childs' parents were at the scene. I guess they have no responsibility?? give me a *$$&^ break. sad they lost a son..but that shouldn't equate to gaining a financial windfall.

  3. Settle this one quickly… the longer it takes the worse it will come out. The Village image has already gone to hell. Their defenses are stuck in the muke.

  4. There is a big difference between filing a lawsuit and having a legitimate claim of action. Definitely no need to settle at this point. Not sure what image has been destroyed by this tragedy as 12:37 indicates.

  5. That’s it, get rich for being a careless , irresponsible parent!

  6. what makes the parents irresponsible- they went to a guarded pool/pond, paid for their admission- so why again are the parents at fault? What makes you think that the 14 yr old could not swim? Just because someone drowns does not mean they can not swim.

  7. These matters typically get settled. The problem with these suits is that they eat up very expensive legal fees in the process, which we, as taxpayers, have to pay for. In the end, there will probably also be a settlement amount. Even with a not-so-strong case, these scumbag ambulance chasers know how to wear the other side down to make the matter go away and stop the never-ending legal fees.

  8. I wonder how did the lawyer come up with the $30 mil figure? … (don’t tell me that’s the family’s idea!)

    Because the Valley just received a $30 mil gift??

  9. Why can’t an accidental drowning simply be a tragic accident? Why do lawyers have to get involved? Why does the family deserve a massive cash award – does this somehow make up for their devastating loss? Do they think that they will have some level of peace if they “make Ridgewood pay?” It is pitiful to me. The family would be better off helping one another cope with their loss and gradually moving forward, without trying to reduce the life of their son to a dollar amount.

  10. 6:16- it has been well documented that the parents told first responders and lifeguards that he was a non-swimmer. ‘Nuff said. Go through the decision-making process that (should have) proceeded the swimming outing.
    1. You have a non-swimmer or weak-swimming child.
    2. You go to a murky (lake-type) deep water pool.
    3. You send your child into the pool with younger cousins / companions.
    4. You don’t go in with your child.
    5. There isn’t a clear “here’s the rules” type of conversation beforehand??? Here’s where you CAN go, here’s where you CAN’T, it gets deep after the rope, etc.

    Should I continue? We all have kids, we all make decisions each and every day as to what we will and won’t allow. That continues from toddlerhood until they are out and married. That’s parenting, and while my heart bleeds unadulterated pain for that family and for that child, how can we hand over the ultimate responsibility for our kids to other people and then try to PUNISH them when something goes wrong? They are lifeguards, not babysitters or bodyguards for individuals.

  11. Well, if my child couldn’t swim…I don’t think I would be letting him run off in the water with anyone. But that’s just me.

  12. The Village image has already gone to hell.

    Thank you, Chicken Little, for providing the “Sky Is Falling on Ridgewood” post of the day.

  13. Our Village attorney doesn’t mind that it drags on, he gets paid at the TAXPAYER’S EXPENSE.

    Wonder how much the Village and BOE rack up in legal fees due to foot dragging instead of settling when they are clearly at fault.

  14. If it is true that the female lifeguard did not go in the water and opted for calling his name first (in a way disreguarding the friends words), then I believe there is grounds for legal action.

  15. Finally the light is beginning to shine or sink in…

    Can some finally see the bottom yet? The insurance complanies will hassle this one, as best they can.

    Liability rates on Graydon now will be out of sight! Somebody better figure this one out soon.

  16. its quite simple. lawyers have nothing else to sell other than their time. there is NO BENEFIT whatsoever to a lawyer to settle a case promptly(unless its the attorney who filed the suit for the victims family..and was most likely retained on a contingency basis where the common rate is 1/3 of collected winnings PLUS expenses) The insurance co for the village would most likely offer some sort of ‘settlement’ due to the excessive costs of litigation, without admitting liabilty. however one never knows how these things pan out… sad case where a child loses his life…gets sadder when someone else sees the tragedy as a winning lottery ticket.

  17. Get a grip people,,,,

    – Paying for a day pass at a guarded pool does not absolve the parents for responsibility to oversee their son, who they knew was a “weak swimmer”.

    – The child broke the rules and swam outside the “shallow” area, without advising anyone or attempting to pass the swim test, that would have made it clear that he should not have been outside the ropes.

    – According to reports at the time, the boys companions did not notice he was missing for several minutes and then did not notify the lifeguards for another 15 minutes or so.

    This is a tragic accident and another example of a frivolous law suit in our overly litigious society. It adds to the case for a “loser pays” policy for lawsuits in NJ. I’ve lost all sympathy for these parents, who now want to profit from their own gross negligence.

  18. no, it is not true that the female lifeguard decided not to go in at first notice. are you kidding me? those lifegaurds take their jobs extremely seriously and even if they didn’t, i dont really think anybody with common sense would sit idle if they knew someone was in the water drowning. the truth is that the notification did not occur for 8 minutes and it wasnt to a lifegaurd it was to the manager at the managers office.

  19. The depositions are the true accounts of what happened. I would look to them for the accurate record of the events of the day.

  20. you cannot blame a lifeguard for the ignorance of a parent…or the lack of skills by a swimmer…but then again..i’m not a lawyer..it must be SOMEONES fault for everything…so they have SOMEONE to SUE…imagine…200 years of the industrial revolution to build this country…and 20 years of lawyering to rip it apart…sux big time (ask any biz owner what their liability premiums are..better yet..ask your Doctor!) In a perfect world…one should be able to sue their lawyer if the outcome of a trial isnt as promised by the LIAR..er…lawyer

  21. You can’t blame the parents for the ignorance of the lifeguards and their lack of training to recover a distressed swimmer in murky dirty water either!

    It’s the legal responsibility for maintaining of a high-risk pond/lake converted to a swimming facility. Lifeguards can’t see anything… period.

  22. So satisfying that one of the most famous trial lawyers of modern times, a man who made his fortune suing deep-pocket companies, gets busted cheating on his wife after using his wife and her illness as a publicity stunt. I am deeply sorry for his wife, but I detest these lying, holier-than-thou politicians. The fact that he was an upmarket ambulance chaser makes it all the more satisfying. Is it any wonder that they have special categories of jokes for lawyers?

  23. What actually happened, the boy’s original story, is very different from what the papers say and what the family is saying now. There wasn’t even a female lifeguard present when the drowning was initially reported, it was reported to male lifeguards that were not sitting up in the stands. That’s right, the boy went under, and his friend ran past 3 lifeguards that could have acted immediately had it been brought to their attention. (remember there were hundreds of kids in the water that day) The boy ran to the other side of the pool and was only able to give a general location of where in the pool his friend was.

    So I’m sure a lot of you think the lifeguards are lazy, they’re to blame, they’re poorly trained, etc. But, you were not there, and you weren’t there the weeks and months before when the lifeguards had to run every drill in the book for every circumstance and go over every procedure. Other pools drill once a summer. Graydon guards you can see drilling almost every other day.

    The guards were handed a terrible situation, because this poor boy’s friend did not alert any one that could help in time. They were stuck with a recovery situation, and they followed all of their procedures for the situation flawlessly. So stop believing everything you read in the paper.

    And if you still think that it’s the guard’s fault then you try sitting up there on a hot July day when there are 50+ kids in your water alone. You tell me if it’s even possible to know where each and every one of them is at all times, and whether or not they’re swimming properly or breaking rules. I dare you.

  24. “their lack of training to recover a distressed swimmer in murky dirty water”

    Then we should have “swim at your own risk” signs at the pool.

  25. 10:09 you also forget to mention the “assumption of risk.” As tragic as this was, it was an accident and probably unpreventable by anyone. The child did not know how to swim, was in a strange place, and he did not speak English. Maybe there was poor judgment involved on the parents’ part here for even letting the child go in the pond! It does not take very long for someone to drown and even in a clear water pool it is often difficult to detect if a child is swimming under water or in distress. In life, tragedies happen. Very often filing lawsuits is an attempt to transfer guilt to another party. In this case, the parents and pool member hosts may be trying to deal with this by shifting their burden to Ridgewood. Of course, sadly, in this day and age,there is always a lawyer who will nurture that notion along with the possibility of a large monetary settlement, a third of which will fill his own pockets.

  26. The family of this boy is going through a tough time. Loosing a child… there are no words to explain the pain they have to be going through.
    Maybe just maybe with this intent to sue, they are trying to prevent this from happening again. Maybe just maybe they are trying to make our Ridgewood council members see that they are ways to improve Graydon.
    Maybe just maybe they have more soul than many of you.

  27. “Maybe just maybe they have more soul than many of you.

    12:34 PM”

    What on earth does that mean? My religion does not say that. What faith is that?

  28. 1:24 PM

    Those of us who were not involved in the rescue do not know the true story. Being at Graydon that day does not tell us how the rescue was handled. I have heard a story that is very different from yours, it doesn't matter.

    If we had anything relevent to offer we would have been interviewed for the investigation. You & I are a part of the rumors.

  29. Please tell me that there is a lawyer that works for Ridgewood, pro bono. I think it is sick for the parents to value their child at $30 million.

    1.How much was he worth before your pain and suffering?
    2.Why did you not read the rules and rugulations surrounding the pool? Why didn’t you the parent, make the rules clear to him?
    3.Why did you not watch your child? None of my family is allowed in any water, unless being watched by a adult.

    Sorry for your loss, but I, a citizen of Ridgewood, should not have to pay. Unfortunately, if this goes to court, I hope I will be a juror.

  30. 12:34, if the family’s only intent was to have certain improvements made to the pool in hopes to prevent another child from drowning, that should be their demand not $30,000,000! Even if this had been a clear water pool, it is doubtful that this could have been prevented. This child was not a strong swimmer and was allowed to go into a strange pool without parental supervision. He went into an area that was off limits to weak swimmers. I doubt any improvements to Graydon could have prevented this tragedy because it was the child’s own decision to go swimming in an area of the pool where he was not allowed and that may have cost him his life. The rules at Graydon have been put in place for safety but must be followed by all guests to be effective. In this case, there is also a language barrier! Did the host family make sure their guests understood the pool rules for swimmers? Children are known to do things impulsively without thinking or understanding the consquences. This is why parents need to be fully engaged when their children are around or in water or other potentially dangerous situations. The lifeguards are not to blame and too many people rely on them to be babysitters. The situation is so sad and suing the Village for $30,000,000 is not the right thing to do.

  31. I just don’t understand the amount. Lawsuits are supposed to make you whole. Maybe the village could be held liable for the cost of a funeral and transportation of the body back to Korea but to put a number on your child? It’s sick. This number was obviously pulled out of a hat with the lawyer invariably expecting the village to settle. Fortunately, the family had another 4 years to actually file a lawsuit. Hopefully the evidence gathered will make them see that this was just a horrible accident.

  32. I can’t beleive that our society actually believes this is all ok. I am clearly questioning the fact if the mother spoke english number one. I worked at graydon for years and I am more than sure that if a Lifegaurd had clearly and understandably had been told that a child was drowning that life gaurd would have immediately jumped in, no questions asked. This point is what make the majority of us american stupid. As wonderful as global trade and the ability to communicate in a variety of languages we as a nation must declare a formal unified language. We live in NJ and our street signs are all in english, but for some reason we offer the written drivers test in a variety of languages.
    Also, these parents knowing the son could’t swim should have considered accompanying him or set some type of boudaries. Also the personal responsibilty, and not to speak ill of the dead, the kid was 14 not 5, was he special? Finally it is easy to blame others for your short comings, but these parents don’t want to realize this was possibly a horrible accident, or their son was simply irresponsible, or if there was really an emergency wouldn’t you dive in and save your own kid. Instead of pointing the finger they should focus more on the fact their child is in a better place, and should look back an remember the good memories instead of harping on the bad.

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