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It was May 2001 and 2-year-old Loren “Tookie” Hinton was playing a game of hide-and-seek with a group of 10 other children at her family’s apartment complex in Hollywood, Fla. Her father, Lonnie W. Hinton Jr., was barbecuing nearby. He stepped away for a few moments to carry a plate of food to the family’s apartment upstairs. Loren wandered into the pool area, slipping past a broken gate and removed her shoes before gliding down a kiddie slide into the 6-foot-deep water. When neighbors pulled her from the bottom of the pool moments later, she was pale and unconscious. A Broward County jury of four women and two men now has awarded the Hinton family $100 million, finding that 2331 Adams Street Corp., owner of the 26-apartment complex, was negligent for not properly safeguarding the pool area and repairing a broken gate which neighbors had complained to the manager about. The jury’s award includes $56 million in economic damages, including the cost of 24-hour future medical care for Loren. The rest is for pain and emotional suffering, of which approximately $34 million goes to Loren and $10 million to her parents. The Adams Street Corp., and its insurer, Lloyds of London, will be responsible for 99 percent of the verdict, since the jury assigned 1 percent negligence to Loren’s father. Hinton v. 2331 Adams Street Corp., No. 01-012933 (Broward Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). The Hintons’ attorney, Michael A. Haggard of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Haggard, Parks, Haggard & Bologna, said that Loren’s life expectancy was a major debating point at the trial, with the defense arguing that she has only a limited life span. Haggard, who tried the case along with his father, Andrew Haggard, showed the jury a 14-minute day-in-the-life videotape intended to depict Loren’s progress as much as her catastrophic injuries. The girl cannot walk or talk and relies on plastic tubes for feeding and to suck secretions from her lungs since she cannot cough. The jury awarded the highest number suggested by Haggard’s economist. Defense attorney John F. Kennedy of Carlton Fields’ Miami office did not return calls seeking comment. Haggard said the defense’s major argument during the trial was “where was the dad?” “We were able to control the theme of the case to where it always came back to the gate,” Haggard said. The father was gone less than five minutes and knew nothing about the broken gate, he said. “We had to deal with those side issues, but we always brought it back to the gate.” The plaintiffs’ attorneys mock-tried the case twice, said Haggard, and were careful about the composition of the jury. They were cautious of young, new parents who might be too critical of the father’s inattention, and more favorable toward older parents or those with multiple kids who might themselves have looked away from their own kids for five minutes. The plaintiffs’ punitive claim was rejected, said Haggard, who said that he is confident that the verdict will withstand any likely appeal since the bulk of it is an economic award. VARIATIONS IN LAW Hollywood ordinance requires a self-latching pool gate, but, according to Haggard, the biggest hurdle with enforcement is that the department of health does not inspect locks because the law varies among many Florida municipalities. The plaintiffs are lobbying the Florida Legislature next month to enact a uniform law that would require self-locking pool gates. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children below age 5 in Florida, he said, and the second-leading cause of death in children under age 5 nationwide. “We want them to be able to padlock and shut the pool down if it’s not up to code,” he said.

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