Parents seek $222 million in motel pool drain lawsuit Son's ++ injuries nearly fatal in Glen Burnie accident

November 24, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

William Boulay is only 4, but he knows he will never eat solid food, must always wear a colostomy bag, be accompanied by a nurse and keep a tube in his chest that connects him to a computer-assisted feeding pump.

The boy and his parents will ask an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury this week for millions in damages for the near-fatal injuries he suffered at the Glen Burnie Holiday Inn pool in 1995.

Gary and Lisa Boulay of the 800 block of Jack St. in Baltimore filed a $222 million negligence suit against the motel operators and pool maintenance company in 1995, two weeks after their son had much of his intestines sucked out when he become trapped against the drain in the motel wading pool.

Since 1980, 19 people have been trapped in pool or hot tub drains, according the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Six of those cases were fatal, the commission said.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in 1994 requiring public wading pools to have two drains after a 5-year-old girl had her intestines sucked out. New Jersey health department issued a safety advisory calling for daily inspections of drain covers in June after a 16-year-old girl drowned when she was pinned to a broken drain during a post-prom party.

The Boulays' suit alleges that the companies that owned and operated the Holiday Inn franchise, AMI Operating Partners of Glen Burnie and Winegardner & Hammonds Inc. of Baltimore, knew about the drain's problems but opened the pool a month before the accident.

The suit also names Chesapeake Pools of Linthicum as a defendant, alleging that the company was negligent in its maintenance of the wading pool.

The trial, set to begin Tuesday before Judge Clayton Greene Jr., may take about two weeks.

According to court papers, the boy became trapped when he sat the drain at the bottom of the pool on Aug. 16, 1995, and the grate that covered it became loose. The loosening of the cover turned the drain into a powerful suction, which trapped the boy and sucked in his intestines, according to court papers.

The boy, his mother and her other three children had been swimming for about two hours before the accident occurred about 6: 30 p.m. The boy didn't drown because the pool contained 10 inches of water, fire officials said.

Christopher P. Brown, the Boulays' lawyer, said in a brief interview that the Boulays were staying at the motel because they had been burned out of their Baltimore home six weeks before. He said that Gary Boulay is a carpenter, his wife is a homemaker and that William, their youngest child, will never lead a normal life.

The water pressure sucked out 20 percent of the boy's large intestine and all of his small intestine, he said.

"These drains are safe if they're properly covered. If the cover comes off, they're deadly," Brown said.

In court papers, the Boulays' lawyers also say the trauma of the incident has left William and his family emotionally scarred.

Lawyers for the motel and the pool maintenance firm declined to discuss the case last week but said that several of the Boulays' claims would be refuted at trial.

"Keep in mind there are two sides to every story, and that's why we have courtrooms," said David A. Levin, a lawyer for the motel operators.

The suit alleges that no lifeguard was on duty at the time of the accident. The pool was being watched by a janitor "who was completely distracted by two young females that were employed at another hotel who happened to be swimming in the pool," the suit alleges.

The wading pool had been closed by the county Health Department in 1994 because of problems with the drain cover, according to the suit.

When county inspectors examined the pool at the beginning of the 1995 summer season, the motel's management told them that only the adult pool would be used, so the children's wading pool was never inspected, the suit alleges.

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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