A man who was partially paralyzed in 1979 after sliding into shallow water at Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas was awarded $454,554 by a jury last week in a judgment against Los Angeles County.
The plaintiff, Arnulfo Morales, 42, called the award adequate but questioned the Pomona Superior Court jury's decision to assign him 75% of the blame for the July 4 accident.
Morales was using a water slide that emptied into four feet of water in what was known as Puddingstone Swimpark, according to his attorney, David Weiss. The swim park has since closed. Morales slid on his back, head first, and broke his neck when he struck the sandy bottom.
"I sort of made a somersault and I came up, but face down," Morales recalled. "It was very frightening. I could see little kids around me playing in the water. I was just praying . . . just hoping somebody would come and pick me up."
Although Morales was rescued by a lifeguard and although at least one warning sign was posted, Weiss said the suit was won on the basis of the plaintiff's claim of inadequate supervision and poor posting of signs.
Morales contended during the five-week trial that he did not recall seeing any signs.
Martin Roy Robles, who defended the county against the suit, said he has not decided whether to appeal. Robles said the accident was entirely Morales's fault because he slid down the 17-foot slide "like a torpedo." Morales made the conscious decision to "thrust his body down the slide head first, on his back, with his arms at his sides," Robles said.
The accident left Morales with partial use of his arms and legs. He is able to walk only with a cane. Although the jury assessed his total damages at about $1.8 million, they said the negligence was 75% his own and reduced the award accordingly.
Morales's wife was awarded $62,500 and Morales $392,054. The case was heard by Judge Burton Bach.