Chlorine Burn Victim Receives $26 Million Settlement

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Over Memorial Day weekend in 2020, a three-year-old child suffered chemical burns while on vacation at a Myrtle Beach Hotel (Caribbean Resort & Villas), which resulted in his family (the Douglas's) recently winning a $26 million dollar settlement.

The boy's parents didn't notice the burns until they were driving home from their vacation because the boy was unusually fussy in the car, and later that night when he fell asleep, he woke up screaming and crying. That's when his parents noticed redness above his groin area, which worsened overnight. That morning, the parents took the boy to their pediatrician. He was later transferred to the UNC Burn Center where he endured multiple medical removals of dead/damaged skin tissue. The injuries were the result of chemical burns from the swimming pool, which was soon found to have dangerous and illegally high levels of chlorine.

While at the burn center, the boy's parents called the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), so the DHEC went to the resort to check the swimming pool's chemical levels. According to the South Carolina law, chlorine levels should be kept under 8 ppm, but when the DHEC tested the resort's water, it greatly exceeded this number, so the agency shut the pool down.

When the prosecuting attorney, Kenneth Berger, spoke with ABC15 in May of 2023, he said that a man named Juan Rivera was in charge of keeping track of the resort's chlorine levels, but that he wasn't working while the boy was in the lazy river over that Memorial Day weekend in 2020. 

"Juan wasn’t actually working on May 25," says lawyer Kenneth Berger in a statement to ABC15. "When he came back to work a couple of days later, he went back and falsified and forged what the chlorine and other chemical levels were in that pool."

"This corporation and its insurance companies refused to settle this case year after year and refused to accept responsibility for what happened to an innocent little boy," furthers Nick Rowley, a trial attorney. "As we dug deeper and deeper into the case, we learned this was not an isolated event or one day of high chlorine levels. What we uncovered was a reckless, fraudulent scheme to defraud the government and people and hide dangerous levels of chemicals from the public. The conduct and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of children and their families at this resort was egregious."

Due to these events, Juan Rivera was charged with forgery by DHEC for allegedly falsifying the chemical reports.

"Employees for Caribbean Resort shamelessly falsified chlorine level reports and allowed children to play in pools that contained dangerously high levels of chlorine,” says Berger. “On top of the excruciating physical agony inflicted by his third degree burns, Douglas has suffered intense and irreparable mental trauma that no person, let alone a child, should ever have to endure. This settlement secures justice for Douglas, who, along with his family, have faced the consequences of these corporations’ failure to deliver on promises of providing a safe environment for its guests. We hope this case serves as a catalyst for heightened safety standards across the hospitality industry and are grateful that the Douglas family will finally be able to start the healing process and move forward."

The $26 million dollar settlement is in exchange for a dismissal of a pending lawsuit, as well as to avoid an upcoming jury trial.

"I am relieved that justice has been served for my son, who endured unimaginable pain and suffering," says Heather Douglas, the mother of the boy. "No amount of money can erase the trauma he and my family experienced, or erase the permanent scarring, but this victory provides accountability and most importantly, closure and protection for other children."

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