Near Drowning Lawsuit Filed by Family Reaches Settlement
The family of Jaekwon Williams announced last week that they have reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought against the cities of Kinston and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and a water work involving a near drowning experience of the minor nearly four years ago. Kinston’s insurance carriers have paid $10 million and Rocky Mount’s have paid more than $2.6 million. The owners of the park, Woodlife Foundation, also settled for an undisclosed amount. The company said in 2017 that it will be giving the water park to Kinston and relieving itself of all duties.
That family and their attorneys held a press conference at the time of the decision and their attorneys, Ken Haigler and Tom Taft, spoke, saying the funds will go towards the expenses to care for Jaekwon who suffered permanent, irreversible injuries as a result of the near drowning. Jaekwon was present with his family, in a wheelchair.
The lawsuit was filed after Jaekwon, who was nine at the time and unable to swim, was found at the bottom of one of the park’s pools on August 11, 2014, during a Quest Summer Day Camp field trip that was sponsored by the Rocky Mount Parks & Recreation Department. When he was discovered, the child did not have a pulse and he was resuscitated before being transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
Jaekwon remained at the facility for several weeks and was in a comatose state for at least a week. Now, even after being released, the boy cannot walk or talk, and needs medical attention around the clock.
The family had asserted in court paperwork, “that to the negligence, carelessness, recklessness and/or wanton conduct with reckless indifference of all Defendants, Jaekwon Williams was found at the bottom of the lap pool of Lions Water Adventure Park with no pulse or respirations and suffered severe and permanent physical and mental injuries as a result of said non-fatal drowning.”
“Obviously folks, no amount of money in the world can replace what’s happened to Jay and the condition that he currently finds himself in,” family attorney Ken Haigler said after the judge gave final approval. “However, what has happened here, as agreed to by all parties, is fair, just, equitable and reasonable.”
Taft added, “It’s important to note that almost all of the net proceeds of this settlement, after expenses, are deposited into a special needs trust for the benefit of Jaekwon and administered by a corporate fiduciary who manages the funds and the disbursement of the expenses for his care, medical care, and his daily life needs for the remainder of his life.”
The family’s lawsuit had alleged the water park did not have proper safety measures in place to keep their child, or any others safe in the pool, leading to the near drowning. The documents also stated park staff were negligent in their duties by not noticing Williams in the pool for quite some time. The settlement allows the parties to avoid a trial that was previously set by the court regarding the matter.