A jury took a little over an hour on Tuesday to award $21.5 million to the family of a 6-year-old southwest suburban boy who drowned in the Bridgeview Park District pool during a summer camp program four years ago, according to the family’s attorneys.
Michal Duda was pulled unresponsive from the pool at 8100 Beloit Ave. on July 17, 2014, during a “Fun in the Sun” outing with the Justice Park District, according to a statement from Clifford Law Offices.
Jurors held the Justice Park District 80 percent at fault and the Bridgeview Park District 20 percent at fault, attorneys said following the monthlong trial at the Daley Center.
Michal didn’t know how to swim and couldn’t keep his head above water, and was supposed to have been in a wading pool, attorneys said. He was found 10 feet from the edge of the main pool without a flotation device.
A spokesman for the Bridgeview Park District said the judgment will be covered by their insurance, and insisted pool employees followed proper procedures.
“We have always expressed sympathy to the family for their tragic and unfortunate loss, and we continue to sympathize with their suffering,” officials said in a statement.
Representatives for the Justice Park District did not return messages seeking comment.
After the drowning, the Justice Park District issued a statement saying Bridgeview Park District lifeguards had been monitoring the pool, and Justice day camp staff assisted with performing CPR until the boy was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Video evidence at trial showed three camp counselors inside a locker room instead of watching a group of children that included Duda, attorneys said.
The Justice boy died a day later, with the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruling the death an accidental drowning, authorities said then.
The family’s wrongful-death lawsuit, filed a month after the incident, had initially sought more than $800,000 in damages.
Duda’s parents are Polish immigrants and have two surviving children, including Michal’s twin sister, attorneys said.
“These wonderful, hard-working people came to America to find a better life for their future children,” lead attorney Bradley Cosgrove said in a statement. “Now they will have to live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives. They will never be the same.”
The attorneys suggested the $21.5 million verdict could be a record in an Illinois drowning death of a child. The largest verdict in the death of a toddler — $45 million — was handed down earlier this year to the family of a 2-year-old who was murdered by his mother after being returned to her care by a social services agency.