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Cok Kinzler PLLP

Family of boy dead from meningitis to file wrongful death claim

People may assume that when a family files a wrongful death lawsuit in Montana they are simply after money. While it is true that such lawsuits result in monetary judgments, the stigma is unfair, considering that most survivors are suffering financially as well as dealing with the emotional and practical consequences of losing a loved one.

That said, it's almost always true that those who have lost loved ones want answers more than anything else. The main reasons most people bring wrongful death claims are to get answers about how and why their loved ones died, to hold those responsible legally and financially accountable for their actions, and to prevent similar tragedies for other families.

This is exactly what the family members of a 9-year-old boy are hoping for. He died this past summer, after developing a brain infection from a relatively rare form of meningitis after swimming in a city lake contaminated with a deadly amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

This amoeba is able to travel through a swimmer's nose to his or her brain. If swimmers use a nose plug or a face mask, or simply do not put their face in the water, they may be protected from the risk of contracting a deadly infection.

Unfortunately, this is the second time a child has died after swimming in this lake and contracting meningitis from this type of amoeba. Despite this fact, the city never placed warning signs surrounding the swimming facility so that swimmers could be on notice of the hazards associated with swimming in the lake. This is one of the things that this family is hoping to accomplish by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the county.

The city claims that this death is similar to someone catching a cold and they should not be held responsible for that. Obviously the parents of the deceased boy would emphatically disagree, especially considering the fact that the city knew about the dangers associated with swimming in the lake, and that putting up signs would be a relatively inexpensive way to avoid another death.

The city did close the lake the day after the boy's death, and a decision has not yet been made as to whether it will reopen this coming summer. According to the city, that decision will be based upon information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: Pioneer Press, "Stillwater: Family will sue in death of 9-year-old who swam in Lily Lake," Mary Divine, Dec. 13, 2012

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