The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Classmate Of Drowned Teens Sues Conservation District

Seems like everyone is responsible for something these days, just not for their own actions. That sums up the sentiments of most Northwest Herald readers who commented on a story (Northwest Herald) about a boy who is suing the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD) for negligence.

But based on the what facts have been made available, he may have a legitimate claim.

Chicago student Marshawn Williams tried to save three of his drowning classmates but ultimately witnessed their deaths after they sneaked out of their cabins at YMCA Camp Algonquin last year for a boat ride.

Since it was off-season (November, 2008) and the drainage plugs were pulled from the paddle boats, they promptly sunk soon after they launched onto the Fox River.  

The lawsuit alleges negligence on behalf of the conservation district for not properly securing the boats or warning the students. It also alleges the camp did not require the students to be chaperoned.

Williams suffered (and still suffers, he claims) emotional distress from watching three of his classmates drown.

The central question, however, is one of responsibility and thus liability. No one will dispute that the kids showed poor judgment but is it reasonable to assume that something like this could have happened at a camp for teenagers?

An official MCCD report on the incident cites operator inexperience, dangerous waters, cold weather, clothing and failure to wear life vests as contributing factors in the drownings. It also acknowledged that the boats were not secured after the drainage plugs were pulled out.

And that may be the focus of this case, but you'll have to ask an Illinois injury attorney for a more detailed analysis.