Case Type(s): Other Cases, Personal Injury
Type of Injury(ies): Brain Damage, Death, Serious Injuries, Head Trauma, Paralysis And/Or Death
Verdicts & Settlements:
Reprinted from: Morning Advocate, April 12, 1991By Patrick Bonin Advocate staff writerA Houston jury unanimously awarded more than $84 million this afternoon to the family of a 1 ½-yearold girl who died in an apartment complex swimming pool in July 1989.Baton Rouge attorney Jerry McKernan said his partner, Bob Friedman, handled most of the highly publicized case, which went to trial about one month ago.Because of an agreement reached during jury deliberations between the plaintiff and the apartment complex's insurance company, the girl's family will receive a maximum of $17 million in a trust fund.Tiffinie McGough drowned in a swimming pool at the Indian Springs Apartments in Houston on July 16, 1989. Her 2½-year-old sister, Taffidie, also fell in the pool and is now a quadriplegic, McKernan said."The verdict of this jury reflects once again that the people in society who clearly disregard the safety of our children will be treated very harshly, and that is exactly what this case shows,” he said.The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated for about 15 hours over three days before deciding in favor of McGough's grandparents, who brought the suit in behalf of the children. They awarded them $84,250,000."The jury foreman was quoted as saying they wanted to send a message to all of the apartment complexes throughout the country that this kind of conduct would not be tolerated,” he said.The girls' mother fell asleep in their apartment, and both children went outside and wandered to the pool area. A gate door at the pool was defective and would not lock, and both children went inside, McKernan said.The jury's verdict represented the largest personal injury award in Houston's history, he said.The jury awarded the girls' mother $275,000, less 15 percent because they ruled the mother was 15 percent at fault.They also found the complex's management company, H. R. Management, 50 percent at fault and the apartment complex itself 35 percent at fault, McKernan said.The agreement reached between the plaintiff and the apartment complex's insurance calls for a maximum of $17 million to be placed in a trust fund to be administered by the court for Taffidie.McKernan said his client agreed to the $17 million limit, which represented all of the available insurance money, even though he and Friedman had asked their client not to accept the agreement and instead wait on the jury's verdict."Of course, at the time, you don't know what the jury will decide, and they didn't want to put the apartment complex into bankruptcy and run the risk of not collecting anything,” McKernan said. "I think the apartment complex will operate a lot safer now."