Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Trial Ordered in Pool Death

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Trial Ordered in Pool Death

Article excerpt

An appeals court Thursday ordered a new trial in a wrongful death case in which the village of Ridgewood was hit with a multimillion- dollar verdict after a jury found that negligent supervision at Graydon Pool led to a 13-year-old boy's drowning in 2008.

Soo Hyeon Park, his sister and parents had just arrived from South Korea and were visiting with friends in Ridgewood when they decided to go to the pool on July 15, 2008. While swimming out to a dock in the deep end with the two sons of his host, the boy began struggling to stay afloat and went under. None of the nine lifeguards on the stands around the pool that day saw the boy while he was in distress.

The jury found that the village was negligent in its supervision and scanning of the patrons in the water, and that the negligence contributed to Soo's death. It awarded $10 million in damages: $4 million for the pain and suffering that the boy endured as he drowned, $5 million to his parents and sister for their emotional distress and $1 million on the wrongful death claim as compensation for his parents' and sister's loss of Soo's guidance, support and services, the appellate decision said.

In a post-verdict ruling, the trial judge accepted Ridgewood's argument that the family was not entitled to damages for their pain and suffering because they failed to meet a medical expenses threshold of $3,600 under the Tort Claims Act, and the judge vacated the jury's $5 million award on the emotional distress claims.

Both sides appealed. The plaintiffs challenged the dismissal of the favorable verdict on their claims of emotional distress, and the village maintained that the judgment should be reversed and the case dismissed.

In a 45-page ruling, the appeals court held that Ridgewood was not entitled to a dismissal of the case, but it agreed with some of its arguments for being granted a new trial.

The trial court properly granted Ridgewood's post-trial motion to dismiss the family's claims for emotional distress, the appeals court said. But Soo's parents and their hosts should not have been granted a favorable summary judgment on Ridgewood's pretrial "claims for contribution and indemnification," it added. …

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