Cook County Jury Awards a Gross Verdict of $8.1 Million to Victim of Swimming Pool Accident

Lawyers from Healy Scanlon Law Firm secure the highest pool-related accident verdict in Illinois on behalf of man rendered an incomplete quadriplegic.

Chicago, IL (Lexis Nexis) November 30, 2009 -- A Cook County jury has entered an $8.1 million verdict in favor of an Irish immigrant carpenter, 22 years old at the time, who dove into a swimming pool and was rendered an incomplete quadriplegic. The verdict, which was reduced to $4,051,200 for the plaintiff's assumption of risk, is the highest pool-related accident verdict in Illinois.

The case, Duffy v. Together, et. al., had previously been dismissed on the defendant's motion for summary judgment, based on the contention that the pool was an open and obvious hazard. However, the appellate court, in a 2-1 opinion (382 Ill.App.3d 1 (1st Dist. 2008), reversed the summary judgment order, finding that the open and obvious hazard is not a complete defense against a products liability recovery. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the defendant's petition for leave to appeal.

The plaintiff was represented by Martin Healy, Jr., founding partner of Healy Scanlon Law Firm and Immediate Past Chair of the Products Liability Section of American Association for Justice (AAJ), and Jack Cannon and Dennis Lynch, members of the firm.

On July 15, 2001, after closing a 4 a.m. bar, Don Duffy was invited by a friend to go for a swim in an in-ground pool at a south suburban home. He had never been in a pool in the U.S., but was familiar with the typical deep end/shallow end pool from experiences in Ireland and elsewhere. He entered the south shallow end of the pool through full width stairs and felt the slope of the bottom giving downward toward the north end of the pool. There weren't any stairs at the other end, but there was what might be considered a "deep end" ladder at the other end. From all that, he concluded that the pool had a typical shallow end/deep end configuration. He got out of the shallow end and walked toward the other end of the pool and dove toward the north end. Unfortunately, where he dove, instead of being the deep end was actually 3½ feet deep. Rather than being a typical deep end/shallow end pool, the pool in fact had two shallow ends and a deep middle.

The trial proceeded on a strict product liability claim against the installer of the pool, Black Oak Pool & Supply, and the manufacturer of the pool liner, Latham Plastics. At trial, the Defendants argued that the pool was not unusual but rather a somewhat popular "sports pool" and was safe. Defendants also argued that Plaintiff should recover nothing because diving into an admittedly unknown depth of water assumed the risk of injury and doing so while allegedly intoxicated was the sole proximate cause of the injury. The trial before Judge Susan Zwick lasted almost four weeks. After three days of deliberations, the jury found in favor of Duffy against Black Oak, but found in favor of Latham Plastics, the liner manufacturer and also found that Plaintiff was 50% at fault.

The Duffy verdict is the third record multimillion-dollar verdict secured this year by Healy Scanlon Law Firm in Illinois. In September, Martin Healy, Jr. and Dave Huber of the firm obtained a $25 million verdict in favor of a local resident who was seriously injured in a violent 2004 truck/automobile accident in Schaumburg, Illinois. That was a record high verdict for a paraplegic, which surpassed the old verdict of $24 million in a products liability case also held by Martin Healy, Jr. and John Scanlon of Healy Scanlon Law Firm. In March, Martin Healy, Jr. with Jack Cannon secured a $23.7 million verdict, the largest in Will County, for three plaintiffs who sought compensation for two deaths and one injury that resulted from a vehicle accident near Plainfield, Ill.

For more information about Healy Scanlon Law Firm, please go to www.healylawfirm.com or call 800-787-5431.