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City Settles Playground Choking Case for $2.2 Million

The Federal Way City Council in Federal Way, Washington, has agreed to a $2.2 million settlement in the case of a girl who was choked and seriously injured by playground equipment.

Three years ago, Tanayia Blanchard, 11 at the time, was found unconscious hanging by a rope tied to a piece of playground equipment. The rope had been tied to the handle of the playground’s zip line so that smaller children could ride it. The rope was not part of the ride. Conflicting testimonies from witnesses say that the rope had been tied to the ride for two days or longer.

Blanchard somehow got tangled in the rope. She suffered irreversible brain injury and remains in a vegetative state.

Blanchard’s parents sued the Federal Way Police Department because the responding officer concluded that the girl was dead and did not attempt to resuscitate her or remove her from the rope. Instead, Officer Kendrick Wong took pictures of her while she was hanging on the rope. He said that he did not feel a pulse, and he directed first responders to not disturb what he thought was a crime scene. Wong resigned from the police department in 2008 and moved out of state. Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang said that Wong’s resignation was not related to the incident.

“The officer’s actions were all reasonable and he followed procedure based on his training,” Hwang said. “Nobody did anything wrong. This was a tragic, unfortunate event for the Blanchard family and all those involved.”

Blanchard’s attorneys argued that Wong’s actions prevented her from being resuscitated for six to eight minutes. She was finally resuscitated after paramedics arrived at the playground. One doctor testified that the six to eight minute delay made her brain injury much worse than it might have been.

The Federal Way City Council voted 6-0 to approve the settlement, which must still be approved by the King County Superior Court judge later this month. The city did not admit any wrongdoing, according to their attorney Pat Richardson. They city council decided to settle because of the potential cost of litigation. The city’s insurance company at the time of the accident will pay the $2.2 million settlement.

Although the parents will receive part of the settlement, the vast majority of the money will go toward Blanchard’s special needs trust.

This is the second settlement for the Blanchard family. They also sued the King County Housing Authority, which owned the Laurelwood Gardens Apartments complex where the playground was located. In the previous lawsuit, the Blanchards accused the housing authority and the apartment management company of being negligent in monitoring playground equipment. They were awarded $7 million in the previous settlement.

Defendants in the case alleged that the 11-year-old girl’s injury was the result of a suicide attempt rather than a playground accident. Apparently this argument did not go over well.

Tanayia Blanchard suffered permanent brain damage and requires 24-hour medical care. She lives in a skilled nursing facility. A doctor estimated that she will live about 16 more years.

Parents, I know it’s impossible to keep an eye on an 11-year-old child at all times, but you should make regular, focused efforts to inspect their play areas for possible safety hazards.

If your child has been injured due to someone’s negligence, contact an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to recovery. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.