Abigail Taylor had part of her intestinal tract torn out when she sat on a wading pool drain. Her medical expenses could be in the millions.
The family of a 6-year-old Edina girl injured in a freak wading pool accident filed suit Thursday against the pool manufacturer and the Minneapolis Golf Club.
The suit blamed both the club, located in St. Louis Park, and Sta-Rite Industries, a pool equipment manufacturer owned by a Golden Valley company, for the accident, in which 21 feet of Abigail Taylor's small intestine were sucked out when she landed on an uncovered suction outlet in the kiddie pool in June.
Robert Bennett, attorney for the family, said that Abigail's lifetime medical expenses alone could total $30 million, far more than the $6 million in liability insurance he said the Golf Club possesses. Compensation for pain and suffering could add to the damages.
Abigail faces a small intestine transplant that will keep her hospitalized for six months, Bennett said.
A verdict finding the prominent club 50 percent responsible for such damages could be its "death knell," forcing it into bankruptcy, said David Potter, a product liability attorney not involved in the case.
But Dan Haws, an attorney for the Golf Club, said it was far too early to determine the medical costs.
"To say this is the demise of the club is an overstatement," he said. "This is early in the investigation in terms of the facts and whose responsibility it is going to be."
Abigail has had two hospitalizations of about a month each since the June 29 accident.
Her father, Scott Taylor, called her upbeat and resilient. "Her attitude couldn't really be any better," he said. "She is an amazing girl. ... She doesn't get down on herself. I think sometimes, Katey, my wife, and I have a harder time with this than she does going through it."
According to Taylor, Abigail is walking, wearing a backpack with one tube carrying nutrients to her chest, another tube carrying predigested food to her stomach. She wears a colostomy bag and is attending school on most days with a nurse accompanying her 12 hours a day.
The suit alleges that Abigail, playing in the kiddie pool, fell and landed on the uncovered suction outlet, and became trapped on it when the sump created a vacuum.
Her colon was forced into her rectum, and her exposed small intestine was pulled out and through her lacerated rectum.
Taylor, a seven-year club member, said the suit was needed for her future medical costs: "It's a life-changing event, and our insurance is probably going to run out next year. In addition to that, it would be my hope that the manufacturer of this cover would change their product and take this one off the market. It's dangerous and defective."
Bennett alleges negligence by both Sta-Rite and the Golf Club, saying the company knew that its suction cover was a hazard and failed to come up with a safer product. The suit cited three prior disembowelments due to Sta-Rite equipment.
The suit also accuses the Golf Club of failure to properly install the cover and frame, failure to inspect it and failure to close the pool when the cover came off on the day of the incident.
Company, club disagree
Pentair of Golden Valley, which owns Sta-Rite, blamed the accident on the Golf Club. It said a golf ball got stuck in a pool pipe, creating the suction that led to the accident.
In a statement, it blamed the club for its "misuse of its pool products, inadequate site supervision and improper maintenance," adding, "We are confident the facts show that Sta-Rite's products did not cause this horrible incident."
Haws, the club's attorney, said Pentair's statement had a long list of inaccuracies and it was untrue that a golf ball got stuck in the pipe.
He said the drain cover was in place shortly before the accident and had been installed the same way for about four years with no other problem of its coming loose.
"The city of St. Louis Park inspects the pool every year and found the pool passed all over its inspections," he said.
Minneapolis Golf Club, founded in 1916, has about 350 members. The initiation fee is $30,000. Golf Digest Magazine ranked its golf course 19th in Minnesota in 2007.
Pentair acquired Sta-Rite in 2004 as part of its acquisition of Wisconsin-based Wicor Industries. Pentair had 2006 revenues of $3.15 billion.
"We believe we are adequately insured so that this lawsuit is not anticipated to have a material impact," said Rachael Jarosh, a Pentair vice president.