Getting a Recovery for Injuries or Death from Drowning; A Follow-Up to the Sad Case of Nicole Suriel

On June 23rd 12  year old Nicole Suriel drowned while on a school trip at Long Beach, New York.  She and her classmates were allowed to enter the ocean without a lifeguard present.  See our prior story here.

Investigators revealed that at least four other students were in distress and had to be rescued before sxith-grader Nicole Suriel drowned.

According to the just released findings of the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Nicole’s death was a clear result of negligent supervision.  See New York Daily News story.

There appear to have been 4 acts of negligence:

  1. The teacher exercised poor judgment by allowing her children to swim in the churning ocean without a lifeguard;  the teacher was unaware of signs posted at the beach entrance that there were no lifeguards;
  2. There were no specific permission slips for the trip;  there were merely blank permission slips signed by the parents;  Nicole’s father said that if he had known that the school trip was to the beach he would have never had agreed to the trip;
  3. The assistant principal decided at the last moment not to go and instead decided to stay at the school to do paperwork;  pursuant to school rules, this trip may have required the presence of an assistant principal or someone of higher rank than the teacher;
  4. The teacher’s boyfriend, an ex-teacher, who went in the assistant principal’s place, could not swim.

It is clear that the school and the teacher were negligent.  The school is deemed to stand in the shoes of the parent and is obligated to take all reasonable steps that the parent would have exercised over the child. 

This evidence obtained by the Special Commissioner could be used in a wrongful death suit by the girl’s parents.  In death cases and cases of notoriety, there will be an investigation by either an outside agency or within the Department of Education or both.  Such evidence can be used in the family’s civil suit for damages.

If you or a family member has been injured due to drowning, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at 800-581-1434 or write to

Mark E. Seitelman, 7/15/10,


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