Long Island YMCA Settles Suit over Lifeguard Drowning

Family of 17-year-old high school senior sued the YMCA of Long Island after the teenager drowned in the Y's pool in 2008.  

The YMCA of Long Island has settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a 17-year-old lifeguard who drowned more than seven years ago in a lap pool at the Y in Huntington, NY.

Marc Dawson, a high school senior who worked as a lifeguard at the Huntington Y, was found unconscious on Feb. 18, 2008, beneath the surface of a 4-foot lap pool. He died a week later.

In September of that year, the boy's father brought a $10 million lawsuit, contending that the negligence of the Y and several of its employees led to Dawson's death.

Last year, a New York State appellate court panel ruled that the case could proceed to trial on claims of negligence, but dismissed the part of the suit that sought punitive damages from the Y.

The judges decided that the actions of the YMCA defendants "did not rise to the level of moral culpability required to impose punitive damages."

The YMCA submitted evidence "demonstrating that Marc's actions in taking several deep breaths and then deliberately attempting to remain underwater in the pool as long as possible were the sole proximate cause of his death," the appellate panel said. "Given that Marc was a certified lifeguard, and based on 'plain common sense,' he should have known that these actions posed a significant danger."

Reports at the time of the drowning stated that Dawson was practicing holding his breath for Navy Seal training.

The specifics of the settlement are being kept confidential, the Y said in a prepared statement.

"All parties have agreed to resolution of the outstanding legal matters in order to move past what was ultimately a tragic accident.," the statement reads. "All parties agree this is the most positive way to reflect on the memory and legacy of Marc Dawson, and will keep the exact terms of the mediated settlement private."

The attorney for the Dawson family could not be reached for comment.

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