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Family of Wrongful Death Victim Awarded $2 Million


Blog Category:
7/7/2015
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Damages in a Georgia wrongful death claim are calculated as if the victim had survived; the court calculates damages as losses sustained by the victim. Though the wrongful death claim is filed by surviving family, the court views the family as the victim's representatives. Clayton County wrongful death attorney Shane Smith represents families who have lost loved ones in auto accidents, truck accidents and DUI accidents.

A Fulton County, Georgia wrongful death case illustrated the complicated nature of such claims and the need for an experienced wrongful death attorney. The case involved the death of a 31-year-old developmentally disabled man in an assisted living facility's swimming pool. The death occurred during a party hosted for the facility's 40 residents and additional guests. The decedent's mother sued for wrongful death individually and as representative of her son's estate. She alleged that the facility's negligence caused her son's death. The owners of the residential complex were also named as defendants.

The issue in question in the Georgia wrongful death case was whether the decedent drowned as a result of a heart attack or a seizure. The plaintiff alleged that the decedent suffered a seizure that caused him to sink below the water's surface. Testimony was offered showing that the decedent had a history of seizures and that he was at the bottom of the pool for six minutes before staff members noticed his body.

The plaintiff's theory of the case was that the man, who had a history of seizures, experienced a seizure while in the four-foot deep pool and slipped under the water unnoticed by the facility's staff. Negligence was alleged for the defendants' failure to have a lifeguard for the event and providing only five staff members near the pool, none of whom were specifically assigned to supervise people in the pool. The plaintiff asserted that none of the nine other swimmers, all of whom had various degrees of diminished mental capacity, recognized the decedent's distress or rendered emergency assistance. 

During the trial the plaintiff presented surveillance video that appeared to show the decedent's body making sudden movements, spinning around and then convulsing before becoming still under the water's surface.

A medical examiner testified that the decedent did not have water in his stomach or sinuses, hyper-inflated lungs, or foam in the lungs, all downing indicators. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was idiopathic seizure with submersion in shallow water. Additional causes included the six-minute submersion, heavier than normal lungs and an enlarged heart.

The medical examiner's testimony was used by the defense to claim that the decedent suffered a heart attack prior to sinking to the bottom of the pool.

The plaintiff presented expert testimony from an anesthesiologist who is an expert in drowning deaths. According to plaintiff's expert, the decedent exhibited all of the symptoms of drowning.

The jury deliberated for just over an hour and found that the defendants' negligence caused the man's death. It returned a verdict of $2 million plus $22,000 for funeral expenses.

You should hire an experienced Clayton County wrongful death lawyer if you will file a lawsuit on behalf of a family member who died due to another's negligence. Call the Law Offices of Shane Smith for a free consultation.



Category: Wrongful Death Claims

Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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