Estate of Alexander v. Four Points Sheraton


On July 13, 2003, 14-year-old Damarco Alexander was playing in the hotel swimming pool with other children when he becamse submerged under the water’s surface. Due to the poor condition of the water and the lack of clarity, Damarco could not be seen lying on the pool bottom.

A maintenance worker responded to the emergency calls placed by the other children and he jumped into the pool and swam back and forth across the pool. But, because of the extreme cloudy condition of the water, he couldn’t locate Damarco. The maintenance worker then climbed out of the pool and started to drain the pool in an effort to locate Damarco.

Another patron then entered the water and removed Damarco from the bottom of the pool. Once Damarco was removed, CPR was initiated and maintained by other patrons while waiting for EMS response.

Damarco was transported to a trauma center where he died on July 14, 2003.

The expert opined that the hotel and its corporate office breached the Standard of Care as follows:

1. Failure to provide CPR training for employees.

2. Failure to develop Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) for medical emergencies, including respiratory and cardiac emergencies.

3. Failure to develop Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) for submersion incidents in the swimming pool.

4. Failure to conduct emergency drills to practice emergency response to swimming pool incidents.

5. Failure to conduct a Threat Assessment of the swimming pool facility.

6. Failure to evaluate the swimming pool facility to assure state, corporate, and industry safety standards were met.

7. Failure to install and/or maintain a lifeline in the swimming pool.

8. Failure to paint a safety depth line in the pool to designate the dividing line and the transition point of the shallow water to the deep water section of the pool.

9. Failure to assess the Layers of Protection in and around the swimming pool.

10. Failure to install a passive monitoring system in the swimming pool.

11. Failure to establish protocols for backwashing the filter.

12. Failure to establish protocols to superchlorinate the pool.

13. Failure to have a designated emergency telephone at the swimming pool.

14. Failure to have a lifeguard present when the facility does not prohibit children under 15 years of age from entering the facility without a parent or guardian.

15. Failure to meet State of Illinois Department of Public Health requirements.

16. Failure to train one or several CPOs for the property.

17. Failure to follow/adhere to the Sheraton Management Manual which spells out the necessity to establish a plan to handle emergency incidents that take place at the swimming pool, the fitness center, or any other recreation area.

18. Failure to meet/adhere to Starwood requirements to have a written plan for all shifts to identify personnel trained in first aid and CPR.

19. Failure to train at least one employee on each shift in first aid techniques.

20. Failure of management to designate who shall be available to administer first aid any time the health club and pool area is open.

21. Failure to correct deficiencies identified during inspections in 2002.

22. Failure to maintain the clarity of the water.

23. Failure to close down the pool when the pool did not meet the required clarity standards.

24. Failure to train management and maintenance staff about the need to close the swimming pool when the water did not meet the required clarity standards.

25. Failure to have an emergency telephone in the pool area, or failure to have a phone conspicuously identified in the swimming pool area.

26. Failure to determine and monitor pool usage by patrons throughout the day.

27. Failure to maintain circulation, filtration & disinfection equipment.

28. Failure to have an Automated External Defibrillator available.

29. Failure to have a trained and certified swimming pool operator.

30. Failure to require children under age 15 to be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other responsible person at least 18 years of age.

31. Failure to conduct daily walk-through inspections of the pool facility.

32. Failure to conduct initial and on-going refresher training regarding pool safety.

33. Failure to determine the bather load throughout the day.

34. Failure to determine bather load throughout the day.

35. Failure to address chronic on-going problem of cloudy/turbid water.

36. Failure to add a depth line when the pool was refurbished.

37. Failure to adhere to Illinois state law requiring the pool to be closed if the main drain is not visible.

38. Failed to operate the pool in a safe condition.

39. Failed to immediately close the swimming pool when the pool water was not sufficiently clear that the main drain grate could not be clearly visible from the pool deck.

40. Failed to warn Damarco, and members of his family, of the dangerous condition existing in the swimming pool.

41. Failed to warn Damarco of the slope transition in the pool from the shallow water to the deep water section of the pool.

42. Failed to maintain and effectively operate a filtration and disinfection system to clarify pool water.

43. Allowed the pool water to become dangerously cloudy and murky.

44. Failed to recognize and respond to Damarco’s distress in a timely manner resulting in a long delay in the administration of life support resuscitation measures.

45. Failure to require compliance with corporate standards.

46. Failure to require compliance with state codes.

47. Failure to require compliance with industry standards.

48. Failure to develop appropriate training materials.

49. Failure to require CPR certified personnel to be present during hours of operation.

50. Failure to require CPO certified personnel to be present when the pool is operational.

51. Failed to develop appropriate corporate standards and SOPs governing the safe operation of a hotel swimming pool.

52. Failed to enforce their own standards regarding the safe operation of a hotel swimming pool.


Historic Justice Reaps $3.1 Million Award

Fox News called it “historic justice”. Popular national and legal media called it the largest award for a minor who drowned in history. A $3.1 million dollar settlement was reached on the eve of trial. Craig Tobin, Tomas Petkus, and Paula Tobin were proud to have successfully represented Roseanne Alexander and the Estate of Damarco Alexander in their pursuit of justice.

Damarco died at the Four Points Sheraton O’Hare hotel. He was attending his 14th birthday party. He entered the pool with friends. He slipped from the shallow to the deep end. The water clarity was so poor that he could not be found for more than 20 minutes.

The defendants included Sheraton Hotel Corporation and the limited partnership that had the license agreement to operate the hotel. The defendants claimed that the cause of Damarco’s death was his inability to swim. The firm of Tobin Petkus & Munoz, L.L.C., with the assistance of their Expert Witness, Gerald M. Dworkin of Lifesaving Resources Inc., proved that the pool should not have been open that day because of chronic water turbidity. The pool had been open on many prior days in violation of Illinois safety regulations. Pools open to the public should not place children at risk. Tragically, Damarco died because the turbidity of the water – the reason the pool should not have been open – prevented his timely rescue.

The story of the settlement made headlines across the country in features by the Associated Press, ABC News, Fox News, and all the major professional publications.

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