A possible trial date is approaching in the lawsuit filed by the estate of Samuel Itty ’02 against the Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville, Ky.
Itty drowned at age 19 at the pool facility during the summer of 2000 while participating in the Bulldogs in the Bluegrass program.
Attorneys from both sides said that a trial date has not been set. Michael Hance, the lawyer for Itty’s estate, said he will ask for a court date at the pretrial hearing on Jan. 7.
Hance said he could not remember exactly when he was contacted by the estate, but he estimated it was within a year of Itty’s death.
Hance said the case was ongoing.
“A lot of things happen that people don’t realize. Cases just take a while,” Hance said. “The average case in Kentucky takes two to three years, and hopefully we will be done two years from the event.”
Lakeside’s attorney, Donald Miller, said that he could not predict how long the trial would last, and that the trial’s length depends on how Itty’s family proceeds.
Both sides have made trips to New Haven to depose Itty’s fellow Bluegrass participants. The most recent depositions were taken by Hance last Friday and Saturday. Matthew Steinberg, another attorney for the swim club, came to New Haven in October.
Matthew Baldwin ’03 said his deposition with Hance took about 20 minutes at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. He said he was chosen by the attorney because he was on a list of people who spoke to the police following the event.
“I talked to the police not because I knew anything that anyone else had done but because me and another kid had gone to [Itty’s] room to see if he had been on any prescription drugs and might have had an allergic reaction,” Baldwin said.
Andrew Singer ’02 said he met with Nance for a half-hour. Singer, who was Itty’s roommate in Kentucky and said Itty was a good friend before the trip, said he and Itty entered the water at the same time. Singer said he was already in the deep end when he saw Itty underwater.
“Basically we got in, and then I swam off. He went from the shallow end to the deep end. It was a sudden drop to the deep end,” Singer said.
Singer said Hance asked him questions similar to the ones he was asked the summer of the drowning regarding his opinion on what happened.
“It is basically for the lawyers to decide, but it is really like a two-way street. Clearly if the lifeguards had been paying more attention, they would have caught him and saved him,” Singer said.
But Singer said that the lifeguards work so much that watching swimmers becomes routine.
“They are out there day in and day out,” Singer said. “It is the kind of thing where [when] you break your attention for two minutes something horrible could have happened.”
Miller said Itty’s death was “absolutely not” caused by negligence on the part of the facility.
“Lakeside is an absolutely fabulous facility and absolutely nothing it did caused or contributed to Sam’s death,” Miller said.
Baldwin said he had no problem with the deposition.
“Obviously you can’t bring the guy back,” Baldwin said. “I think there are two steps — the first, shock, and after that you want to find out why, and if it could have been prevented.”
Hance said that while he felt bad putting the students through the depositions, he thinks the lawsuit embodies a greater good.
“One of the things this can do is hopefully it will add meaning to Sam’s life in terms that this won’t happen to somebody else’s child,” Hance said. “Yeah, lawsuits are about money, but sometimes they have more esoteric meaning. A family that loses a loved one can take comfort that something was done.”
Singer said he hoped the lawsuit would give Itty’s family a clearer understanding of what happened on that June day.
“It is very different for them because they weren’t there and don’t know what happened,” Singer said. “This lawsuit should hopefully clarify what happened and who is at fault.”
While Miller said that while he was sympathetic for Itty’s family, Lakeside cannot be held at fault.
“Nothing that Lakeside did or didn’t do caused the death of Sam Itty,” Miller said. “Our condolences continue to be with Sam’s family.”