City Not Liable for Coney Island Drowning Death

In Johnson v. City of New York, a personal injury case involving a drowning death, the Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the denial of summary judgment to defendant City of New York, and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint.

The facts:

On July 26, 2008, Akira Johnson, a 10-year-old girl, and her cousin, Tyriek Currie, a 10-year-old boy, were in the water together off the beach at Coney Island. They were about five feet from each other, in water up to Akira’s neck and up to Tyriek’s chest, when they lost their footing. A lifeguard saw the children struggling, and he signaled to other lifeguards stationed nearby. Several lifeguards went into the water. They were able to rescue Tyriek, but they could not find Akira, who had disappeared beneath the surface. Her body was found several days later.

Plaintiffs sued, alleging wrongful death and negligence.

“Although the City is not an insurer of the safety of the users of its parks, including its beaches, it has the duty to maintain them in a ‘reasonably safe condition’. This duty includes the City’s exercise of ordinary care by providing an “adequate degree of general supervision.”

In finding against plaintiff, the court held:

In support of its motion for summary judgment, the City established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting evidence that it had furnished a sufficient number of lifeguards, that those lifeguards were experienced and competent, that they were adequately trained and properly certified, and that they reacted to the situation in accordance with proper procedure. In opposition, the plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

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