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Court allows Marc Dawson's family's suit against YMCA

The Huntington YMCA in Huntington Village is pictured.

The Huntington YMCA in Huntington Village is pictured. (Nov. 23, 2012) Credit: Ian J. Stark

After five years and about 30 depositions, the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of a Harborfields teen who drowned in the pool of the Huntington YMCA will go to trial.

Earlier this month, State Supreme Court judge Denise F. Molia handed down a decision that the case against YMCA of Long Island and four of its employees must be decided by a jury.

The court threw out a motion by the defendants to have the case dismissed or to eliminate various claims in the lawsuit, including wrongful death, pain and suffering and a claim for punitive damages.

"What the judges decision shows is that there is sufficient evidence that this case be heard and decided by a jury," said Michael Perrotta, the Huntington-based lawyer representing the family of Marc Dawson, who died in 2008. "That's what the Dawson family wants. They want the opportunity for their case to be heard by a jury and to receive justice for Marc."

Perrotta said he expects to get a trial date in four to six months. The family plans to seek $10 million in damages, Perrotta said.

On Feb. 18, 2008, Dawson, 17, a senior at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn and a lifeguard at the YMCA, was on a break and apparently practicing for Navy SEAL training in a 4-foot-deep lap pool when a lifeguard noticed him unconscious at the bottom of the pool. He died a week later.

The Dawson family sued, alleging in their complaint that the plaintiffs were "reckless, careless, and negligent in the ownership, operation, management, maintenance, control, life guarding and supervision of the subject premises."

The defendants in the case are the YMCA of Long Island, based in Glen Cove, which oversees the Huntington facility; two lifeguards on duty when the accident happened, then-teenagers Kaitlyn Wulfken and Adam Dworkin; Georgene Howell, an aquatics coordinator, and Donna Porter, a lifeguard, both of whom were on the premises.

Eileen Knauer, the Y's regional vice president and executive director, declined to comment because the case is the subject of ongoing litigation.

Wulfken, Howell and Porter did not return calls for comment. Dworkin also could not be reached for comment.

Marc's father, Ray Dawson of Greenlawn, said the process has been grueling, but he is glad a jury will decide the case. "I promised my son we would get to the truth," Dawson said.

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