Arkansas Jury Awards Woman $3M in Pool Injury Suit

February 17, 2009

A Garland County (Ark.) jury has awarded a Mississippi woman $3 million in a lawsuit over injuries she suffered in a near-drowning at a Hot Springs hotel in 2006.

Hot Springs lawyer D. Scott Hickam said the jury award for Demetrica Quenta Scott was likely one of the largest in county history. A lawsuit against the Rodeway Inn accused the hotel of improperly maintaining its pool, which the suit claimed was cloudy on July 3, 2006, the day Scott dove in and couldn’t make her way to the surface.

For five to six minutes, different people dove into the pool, feeling for Scott, but no one could see her because of the turbidity of the water, the suit claimed. Others used the shepherd’s hook at the pool as a probe, but could not find her. Finally, a visitor from Walker, La., who had just pulled into the parking lot, heard the commotion, hurdled the fence and by luck dove in where Scott was at and brought her to the surface.

Paramedics were able to establish vital signs after about 15 or 20 minutes, Hickam said. The complaint alleges she suffered the serious brain damage because of a loss of oxygen while submerged.

The jury deliberated about four hours before returning a verdict in her favor earlier this month.

Scott suffered serious brain damage and now lives in a nursing home in Greenwood, Miss., the town where she was born and where her father still lives. She has cognitive awareness but cannot communicate with her family, and receives nourishment through a feeding tube.

Hickam acknowledged Scott had a “few drinks” before the accident and jumped into the deep end of the pool without a life jacket, despite signs that warned no lifeguard was on duty and not to swim after consuming alcoholic beverages.

Hickam said there should have been only one sign, “pool closed,” because the turbidity of the water nullified safety features like the shepherd’s hook and a life ring.

“I just think that the motel’s negligence in allowing the pool to be the way it was, was much more negligence than was hers,” he told the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record.

Information from: The Sentinel-Record,

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