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Settlement Reached in Minor’s Drowning

Posted on Dec 22, 2009

Nathaniel McCoy, a student at George Junior Republic, drowned while on an off-campus excursion with a teacher and classmates.  The incident occurred at Slippery Rock Creek in Lawrence County.  The student jumped into the creek for a swim.  Nathaniel, who did not know how to swim, drowned when the strong current of the creek forced his body away from his classmates and teacher, Aaron Cujas.

The decedent’s estate sued the teacher and school for wrongful death claiming negligence in supervising the minor.  Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that the defendants’ actions were grossly negligent which entitled the plaintiff to punitive damages.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the teacher brought Nathaniel and his classmates on an unauthorized swimming excursion to the creek after volunteering at a church.  They further alleged that Cujas was directly responsible for McCoy’s decision to attempt to swim in the creek and that his classmates would testify that he encouraged Nathaniel to jump into the creek, despite the fact that he was aware that Nathaniel could not swim.

As to George Junior Republic, plaintiff’s counsel asserted that they were grossly negligent in its handling of the teacher’s employment.  Counsel argued that Cujas had a long history of negligent actions and that the school failed to terminate the teacher prior to his negligent actions which cost Nathaniel his life.  This action made the school responsible for the student’s death.

A settlement in the amount of $5,120,000.00 was reached between the parties.

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