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Mississippi Jury Awards Parents $4.7 Million for Near Drownings of Children at La Quinta Inn

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Jackson, Mississippi—a jury recently awarded $4.7 million to the parents of two children who nearly drowned in a swimming pool at the La Quinta Inn in Jackson in 2007. Specifically, the parents’ lawsuit alleged that the hotel was negligent in keeping the pool locked after the designated 10 p.m. closing time, per company policy.

According to employee testimony during the trial, the self-latching gate on the fence surrounding the pool wasn’t working. In addition, La Quinta corporate policy requires hotel managers to maintain CPR certification, but the manager’s certification at the Jackson hotel had lapsed. However, La Quinta officials argued that there was no duty to lock the pool gate during non-pool hours and that the children were not the responsibility of the hotel staff.

The near drownings occurred on July 30, 2007, at the La Quinta on Briarwood Drive in Jackson. The children, ages 8 and 9, and their parents were staying there at the time. The children were left at the hotel while their father drove their mother to work at Central Mississippi Medical Center. According to the parents’ testimony, the children were warned to stay away from the pool, but footage showed that sometime between 6:34 a.m. and 7 a.m. the children ended up in the pool. It is believed that the children were going to the lobby to get free continental breakfast—a normal routine that hotel officials admitted that they had witnessed over the course of several days. However, the children somehow ended up in the pool: the female child was first, and her brother apparently tried to save her, but fell or was pulled into the pool. Court records indicate that around 7 a.m., guests were awakened by shouting from the pool area and called the front desk before hotel officials responded. While hotel staff claimed that the manager’s heroism saved the children’s lives, four young women, who were guests at the hotel, actually helped Lehman pull the girl out of the pool and assisted him in performing CPR. Consequently, the children suffered medical problems afterward, including hospitalization of one for eight or nine days and the other for about a month.