Family of drowned Hillsboro swimmer files $70 million lawsuit
The family of a 14-year-old girl who drowned at Hillsboro's Shute Park Aquatic & Recreation Center in 2019 has filed a $70 million lawsuit against the city, the Hillsboro School District and pool equipment businesses, stating negligence led to her wrongful death.
Nabila Maazouz, a freshman at Oregon Episcopal School and member of the Liberty High School swim team, was found dead under a pool cover after a swim team practice Nov. 20, 2019.
The lawsuit was first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
When the practice in facility's outdoor pool ended, the team's coach instructed swimmers to cover the pool with heavy covers that create suction when rolled onto the water, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Oct. 5, in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Maazouz and several other swimmers grabbed one pool cover and swam with it to the deep end of the pool, the lawsuit said.
They then swam under the cover back toward the other end of the pool where they grabbed a second pool cover, swimming with it to the deep end and placing it next to the first cover, the lawsuit said.
Team members swam under the second cover, but Maazouz didn't resurface, the lawsuit said.
They continued to cover the pool without noticing Maazouz's disappearance, according to the lawsuit.
Swimmers and coaches left the pool after it was completely covered, and the lights were turned off, the lawsuit said.
Maazouz's mother, Patricia Maazouz, was waiting in the facility's parking lot when she noticed team members leaving without her daughter, according to the lawsuit.
She went inside and asked coaches and facility staff where her daughter was, the lawsuit said.
After searching the property, Maazouz was found dead under the pool covers in the deep end of the pool, according to the lawsuit.
The design of the ThermGard pool covers were "unreasonably dangerous," the lawsuit alleged, allowing Maazouz to become trapped underneath.
Warnings on the covers about the dangers of their use were not adequate and violated industry standards, the lawsuit further alleged.
Universal Filtration Inc., the manufacturer of the ThermGard pool cover, and BK Reilly & Co., the seller of the cover doing business as The Pool and Spa House, were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Pamplin Media Group has reached out to the companies for comment.
The Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department and Hillsboro School District were negligent in allowing the use of the pool covers, allowing swimmers to swim underneath the covers, not properly training staff, swimmers and staff about how to safely use the covers, not having lifeguards on duty, and not noticing Maazouz did not resurface, the lawsuit alleges.
Days after Maazouz's death, Hillsboro School District and city officials told Pamplin Media Group they had discussed procedural changes for swim practices at the pool.
The changes included facility staff covering the pools after swim practices for the reminder of the season as well as providing a lifeguard or designating a coach with lifeguard certification as a lifeguard for every practice.
"Our hearts remain with the Maazouz family and everyone in our community who has been devastated by the tragic death of Nabila," said Patrick Preston, a city spokesperson, in a statement. "The City of Hillsboro is committed to caring for the safety and well-being of all community members at all city facilities. Because this is pending litigation, we will not be issuing additional comments."
Beth Graser, spokesperson for the school district, said she "experienced a rush of emotions and sadness thinking about the loss" of Maazouz when she returned to the facility for the first time since her death to watch a water polo game last week.
"Nabila's death was a tragedy that we are all still grieving," Graser said.
She declined to comment on the lawsuit.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.