December 06, 2006
County Wins Wrongful Death Appeal
The 2002 drowning death of a Bellport teenager was indeed a tragedy, but according to Suffolk's lead attorney Christine Malafi, the county was not responsible. Last week the court of appeals agreed, supporting her request to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Kymani Green.
According to the decision rendered by the State Supreme Court Appellate Division, during the early afternoon of August 10, 2002, an unusually large number of swimmers were rescued from the waters off Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton. A rip current roiled across the South Fork shoreline that day, claiming the life of a second teen, a Copiague visitor, in the waters off Montauk.
On Cupsogue Beach, the court decision says, when lifeguards closed the beach for the day, they directed all swimmers to get out of the water. The decision states that Green, then 17, and his companion asked lifeguards why they had to get out of the water. They were told swimming was prohibited in unprotected waters. After the lifeguards left, however, the two boys went back into the water. Both boys struggled in the strong surf. Green was pulled away from the shore. After an exhaustive 12-hour search involving helicopters and Coast Guard rescue boats, the boy's body was found.
According to Malafi, Green's family filed a Notice of Claim against Suffolk County at the end of 2002. She said they sought "millions" in a wrongful death suit accusing the county of negligence.
In keeping with Malafi's philosophy, the county launched an aggressive defense, and when the court declined to dismiss the suit initially, she filed an appeal. This recent decision grants the dismissal. Green's survivors can appeal the decision to a higher court, Malafi said, but she doesn't believe the case meets the criteria for a successful appeal. Of the court victory, she said, "While our sympathy and hearts go out to the Green family, the Appellate Division made the right decision."