Family of girl electrocuted in Druid Hill Park settles with company

Lawyers seek to revive case against city

September 28, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

The family of a 14-year-old girl who was electrocuted on a Druid Hill Park softball field in 2006 has settled a lawsuit with a private contractor, but is seeking to revive litigation against the city that a judge had previously dismissed.

An attorney for Douglas Electric and Lighting confirmed the settlement but said the amount was confidential. The lawyer for the company, Thomas V. McCarron, said executives decided to negotiate after a judge granted the city immunity but allowed the family to pursue the electrical company in court.

McCarron said the settlement is not an admission the company did anything wrong to cause the death of Deanna Green, who was killed while stretching during a softball game. The girl, whose foot had been resting against a fence that was touching an underground cable, had reached for a second fence, completing an electrical circuit.

"None whatsoever," said the lawyer when asked about culpability.

Green's death in May 2006 prompted the city to remove and repair underground electric lines in several city parks. City officials had at first told the family that no repairs had been made to the underground line prior to the girl's death, but the Greens later received documents showing that repairs were made to the line three years earlier.

Family attorneys say that documents they received from DEL showed that the company's workers dug 300 feet of new lines to a light pole located about 60 feet from where Deanna died. The company, which worked six times at the field from 2003 to 2006, countered that its work had nothing to do with the existing underground lines and fences that had been installed in the 1960s.

McCarron said executives settled with the family to avoid the risk and cost of a civil trial and the potential for a large jury award.

But Deanna's father, Anthony Green, a former Baltimore Colts lineman nicknamed "Bubba," said relatives are only partially satisfied. They are angry with Baltimore Circuit Judge Kaye A. Allison's ruling in May that granted the city immunity, and last month they filed an amended complaint to restart the litigation.

"We feel this has been a cover-up since Day 1," Green said Tuesday. "We want the city to feel what we feel. They could really care less about us. We will fight this thing all the way to the end."

Evidence of Green's relentless spirit came Saturday afternoon, when he got a few minutes alone with Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was mayor when his daughter died and had visited grieving family members at their home.

Green's son plays football for Bowie State University and both attended Saturday's home opener pitting the Bulldogs against the Virginia Union University Panthers. Green cheered his son; O'Malley participated in a field dedication ceremony.

During a break, Green approached the governor, who told Green he remembered going to the family's home, but that he didn't recall much about his daughter's death, according to Green. O'Malley's spokesman, Shaun Adamec, confirmed the meeting.

In trying to revive the suit, family lawyers contend that the city should not be granted immunity because it charges for park services, which means the park is no longer a public enterprise.

City attorneys argue in court documents that revenue gleaned from permit fees for sports programs and festivals hardly turn the park into a profitable business. The city filed a budget that shows Druid Hill Park brought in $83,864 in fees in 2009, but spent $1.24 million in operating costs.

The City Solicitor's Office wrote in its response that even if the city was not immune from this litigation, the dead girl's family has "advanced no evidence of any wrongdoing on the underground cable and fence."

A judge has yet to rule on whether the case against the city can go forward.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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