$1 million settlement in wrongful death of six-year-old boy

A six-year-old boy died at a fitness center after an injury sustained while his father worked out on the cable crossover machine. Somehow the father pulled the equipment over. The boy sat at a bench, reading a book, approximately six feet away. The crossbar struck him on the head, fatally.

We represented the boy’s mother. He lived with his mother but his dad picked him up from school every day and took care of him until his mother got home from work. His practice was to take the boy with him to work out at the fitness center which had no childcare facility.

The fitness center immediately closed, declaring bankruptcy soon after, not because of anything we did, but, apparently, because as soon as the news hit the papers, none of the members wanted to work out there anymore. We investigated the dad, who had basically no assets. He lived in a rental and had no applicable insurance. The fitness center had a $1M insurance policy and that was all the money there was.

This case was particularly tricky due to the conflict between the mom and dad. On the one side, the fitness center was wary of settling the claim with the mom for their full policy limit of $1 M while there was also a potential claim from the dad who wanted a piece of any settlement. As you might expect, the emotions in the case ran extremely high and the dad was emotionally unprepared to accept any responsibility for the accident.

Our goal was to settle the case as fast as possible so that the mother didn’t have to deal with a drawn out process and to maximize her share of the limited settlement proceeds. Less than four months after the boy died, we convinced the insurer to pay the mother its policy limits, then we went to mediation with the dad to determine his share. We ultimately agreed to pay him about 20% of the net settlement.