In 2009, the 19 year old was swimming at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute where students with disabilities learn vocational skills when he drowned.
On Tuesday, Court of Appeals Judges Patrick M. Meter and Douglas B. Shapiro issued a decision which claims that the lifeguard’s inaction could be interpreted as the “most immediate, efficient and direct cause” of the teen’s deαth. This upholds a Barry County Circuit judge’s refusal to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Theresa Beals on behalf of her son.
Student Williams Beals had only been at the school for a week when he drowned while swimming with other students. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Beals went to the deep end of the pool and never resurfaced.
Witnesses say the lifeguard, William Harmon, was too busy talking to girls and playing football to notice that Beals had gone under water and hadn’t come up. Beals was actually brought to the surface by another student “after unsuccessfully and repeatedly calling for Harmon’s attention.”
Harmon attempted CPR after he was alerted by the screams of students. Beals was pronounced deαd at the hospital.
“Harmon acted in a manner that could be found to be grossly negligent,” the judges wrote, according to mlive.com. “There is evidence that … Harmon was ‘distracted,’ talking to girls and throwing a ball in the air, when he should have been focused on monitoring the pool and responding to persons in distress.
“Based on this evidence, it would be reasonable to conclude that, because of Harmon’s gross negligence, he failed to notice Beals’ distress and failed to respond appropriately … Given the evidence presented, reasonable minds could conclude that Harmon’s failure to intervene constituted the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of Beals’ deαth.”