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Florida parents win settlement in lightning strike case

It might seem at first glance when someone is killed by lightning that it is an "Act of God." However, as attorneys for the parents of a Florida boy who suffered this fate while at football practice showed, there was more to it than that. The Southern Baptist church with which his school is affiliated has settled a wrongful deathsuit

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The incident happened last year when the 11-year-old was struck by lightning on the field. The six-grader at Southwest Christian Academy was not immediately killed. He remained alive for several days until his family took him off life support.

The boy's parents sued the school and McGregor Baptist Church. Although attorneys for the defendants claimed that the incident was an "Act of God," the parents alleged negligence on the part of the defendants. Witnesses said that the lightning detector was not outside where it should have been, but inside. They also testified that the first person who attended to the boy was not trained in CPR.

The defendants' case was apparently not helped by the pastor of the 10,000-member Ft. Myers mega church, whose public statements were contradicted by witnesses. Just a week before the pastor was scheduled to give his deposition, they decided to settle the suit for an undisclosed amount.

The boy's father said that the family's work is not done. They want to change Florida laws to help prevent what happened to his son from happening to other children. This includes requiring all coaches and teachers to learn how to perform CPR and use defibrillators. Also, they want to mandate that playgrounds, schools, sports fields and events have equipment that detects lightning before it occurs. Further, they want to make it illegal to leave children unattended at sports practices. The father says that they plan to use the funds received from the settlement to start a foundation named for their son and donate the rest to faith-based organizations.

While it might be easy to accept initial statements that this was an "Act of God," when the facts of the incident were investigated, it turned out to be more complicated than that. This case exemplifies how it takes determined family members and legal advocates to ensure that people and organizations are held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, to get justice and to bring about positive changes.

Source: ABPNews, "Church settles lightning-death lawsuit" Bob Allen, Dec. 04, 2013

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