Attorneys Eric Hageman and Fred Pritzker reached a $3 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Abdullahi Charif, a 12-year old boy who drowned during a school swimming class at St. Louis Park Middle School on February 27, 2014.
To avoid a trial which would have exposed the numerous safety violations leading to Abdullahi’s preventable death, the St. Louis Park School District agreed to pay the family its insurance limits of $3 million. Abdullahi’s father, Ali Warsame, described that, “No amount of money can ever bring back Abdullahi, but by filing this lawsuit, we sought to change the school district’s approach to pool safety, so that no other family would ever have to lose a child the way our family did. We hope that by shining a light on what happened to Abdullahi, future tragedies can be avoided.”
During the course of the lawsuit, Eric and Fred conducted an extensive investigation of the factors contributing to the drowning. Evidence in the case showed that the teacher of the swim class – who was also the only adult supervising 28 students – had deemed the class a “free play” day and suspended the normal safety rules. Despite the need for increased surveillance of the unstructured activity in the pool, the teacher was using his iPad during the class period, even as he allowed Abdullahi (and other non-swimmers) to participate in a violent game of “king of the hill” on a large, unsanctioned raft, in the deep end of the pool. Abdullahi was not observed by the teacher as he sank to the bottom of the pool, where he remained, undetected, for over fifteen minutes. Attorney Eric Hageman explained, “the result of all of these failures was as predictable as it was tragic.”
While the settlement of this lawsuit can’t ever bring Abdullahi back, through an unyielding pursuit of the truth, Fred and Eric were able to hold accountable those who were in position to prevent this tragedy, and to help the family move forward from their tremendous loss. To honor Abdullahi, and help prevent future tragedies, the family will be allocating a portion of the settlement proceeds to support organizations that promote pool safety.