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Suit filed in pool drowning

July 02, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a 7-year-old girl who drowned at the YMCA of Hagerstown's pool almost two years ago is scheduled for a Sept. 27 jury trial in Washington County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the defendants in the case, Girls Inc. of Washington County and the YMCA, have made several settlement offers to the parents of Kari Trumpower, according to court records.

The most recent offer was $750,000 and was made on Thursday, Kari's father, Lloyd M. Pearson Jr., said Friday.

Pearson said he did not know if the most recent settlement would be accepted. He said what he has really wanted all along is a plaque to memorialize his daughter, a trust fund in her name and the resignation of YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek.

Girls Inc. and YMCA officials, including Flicek, and their lawyers did not return telephone calls on Friday.

Joseph A. Miklasz, a lawyer representing Kari's mother Karen Trumpower, declined to comment on any negotiations.

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Miklasz said that he would expect the case would be settled prior to a trial unless the lawyers for the YMCA and Girls Inc. continue along their current path.

The lawsuit claims that Kari Trumpower's death was the result of negligence on the part of Girls Inc. and the YMCA.

According to a police report and other accounts of the drowning, on Sept. 11, 1997, Kari was among a group of girls from Girls Inc. that went on a swimming excursion to the YMCA on North Potomac Street.

Girls Inc. is a private, nonprofit group that has been in Hagerstown for 50 years. About 250 girls between the ages of 5 and 18 are club members.

At first, Kari was in a smaller and shallower pool at the YMCA with a group of girls who also did not know how to swim.

At about 4:45 p.m. those girls were asked to leave the smaller pool to make room for a swimming class.

Some of the girls, including Kari, then went to the larger, deeper pool with a Girls Inc. chaperone.

Some of the girls were fitted with flotation devices called "bubbles" but Kari was not.

At about 5 p.m. as the girls were leaving the pool, Kari was seen lying on the bottom in water estimated to be between 7 and 8 feet deep.

Lifeguards and later rescue personnel were able to revive Kari by using CPR. However, Kari never regained consciousness. Six days later her parents authorized doctors to turn off life-support equipment.

Each of four separate counts in the lawsuit asks for $1.5 million plus attorney's fees and court costs. The lawsuit was filed Dec. 10, 1998, in Washington County Circuit Court. Two of the counts are against Girls Inc. and two are against the YMCA.

One count against each group claims that their apparent actions or inactions contributed to the accident and qualify as negligence.

The other count against each group cites Kari's suffering as a result of the alleged negligence.

"It was an accident that should have been avoided," Pearson said.

"The girls should never have been taken from the small pool because none of them could swim," he said.

Also, the complaint in the lawsuit alleges that the lifeguards on duty were negligent because they have a duty to monitor and ensure the safety of the pool.

The defense response to the complaints included a claim that the plaintiffs had assumed the risk of the activity and waived their rights in the matter.

According to court records, on Oct. 23, 1998, lawyers for the YMCA offered Kari's parents a $400,000 settlement, and indicated subsequent offers of $500,000 to $600,000.

Even though the lawsuit is seeking a total of $6 million, Miklasz said that because of state limits on wrongful death lawsuits a monetary award in this case could not exceed about $1.5 million from Girls Inc. and the YMCA together as the groups have been joined for this case.

A court-ordered settlement conference is scheduled for Aug. 6.

The jury trial is scheduled to begin Sep. 27 and is estimated to last five days, according to court records.

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