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$2.325M settlement reached for student who nearly drowned

The parents of a former Havelock High School student who suffered permanent brain injury as a result of a near-drowning during a school field trip have reached a $2.325 million settlement with the Craven County Board of Education and two teachers who supervised the field trip.

An attorney for the family, Ed Braswell, said that Glen Poole Jr. and his classmates were at Fort Macon State Park and that teachers gave the students permission to go into the ocean. One of the other students was knocked off of a sandbar by a wave, and Poole dove into the water to attempt to aid the student, Braswell said. Poole, who could not swim, was pulled underwater for several minutes and suffered a brain injury resulting in severe loss of short-term memory. The other student survived without injury.

Because Poole jumped into the water despite not knowing how to swim, attorneys for the defendants contended that the doctrine of contributory negligence—that Poole’s own negligence had partly caused his injuries—precluded him from recovering any damages. Braswell argued that because Poole was attempting to rescue another student from a danger caused by the defendants’ negligence, he could still recover for his injuries under an exception known as the rescue doctrine. Ed Kellum of New Bern also represented Poole’s family.

Ultimately the two sides reached the settlement on May 9. Scott Hart of Sumrell, Sugg, Carmichael, Hicks & Hart in New Bern mediated the agreement.

Braswell said that the part of Poole’s brain that processes short-term memory was deprived of oxygen for so long that Poole had to be hospitalized for several months and now suffers from a severe loss of short-term memory and other complications. He said that the structure of the settlement, which included $590,424 in special damages to pay for medical bills, will allow the family to purchase an annuity to provide for Poole’s long-term medical needs.

Deborah Stanger of Tharrington Smith in Raleigh represented the school board. Marshall Wall of Cranfill Sumner in Raleigh and Harry Gorham of Teague Campbell in Raleigh represented the teachers.

Wall said that the parties disputed whether Poole was, in fact, attempting to rescue the other student when he dove into the water, and that the factual and legal issues surrounding the rescue doctrine would have been central had the case gone to trial. Wall called the settlement “reasonable under the circumstances.”

Stanger was out of town for work and could not be reached for comment.

Follow David Donovan on Twitter @NCLWDonovan


Amount: $2,325,000

Injuries alleged: Permanent brain injury

Case name: Glenn Courtney Poole, Jr., by and through his guardian ad litem William H. Hollows; Glenn Courtney Poole; and Denise Poole vs. Robert Thomas, both in his individual capacity and his official capacity; Meribeth Praml, both in her individual capacity and in her official capacity; and The Craven County Board of Education, a body corporate

Court: Craven County Superior Court

Case No.: 15-CVS-592

Mediator: Scott Hart of Sumrell, Sugg, Carmichael, Hicks & Hart in New Bern

Date of settlement: May 9, 2016

Special damages: $590,424 in medical bills

Attorneys for plaintiff: Norman Kellum and Ed Braswell of New Bern

Attorneys for defendants: Deborah Stanger of Tharrington Smith in Raleigh, Marshall Wall of Cranfill Sumner in Raleigh, and Harry Gorham of Teague Campbell in Raleigh

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