LEWISTON — A federal appeals court has upheld the lower court dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the family of a 13-year-old boy who drowned in Poland during a school field trip in 2018.
Rayan Issa’s father, Ali Abdisamad, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last year against the city of Lewiston and the state claiming the wrongful death of his son, who had been a Lewiston Middle School student at the time. He also alleged the boy had been deprived of his civil rights.
Issa had been with other students when he drowned while swimming at Range Pond State Park on June 12, 2018.
Abdisamad’s complaint named as defendants the City of Lewiston, the Lewiston School District and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
His amended complaint, filed in April 2019 in U.S. District Court in Portland brought four claims: a due process violation against the city defendants and DACF, plus a wrongful death claim against the city defendants and DACF.
Responding to motions filed in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker dismissed the claims against the state in June 2019. A month later, he dismissed the claims against the City of Lewiston and its School District.
In August, Abdisamad appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.
In the court’s order, Judge Sandra Lynch wrote that Abdisamad’s complaint included “no factual allegations that reveal any conscience-shocking conduct on the part of the city defendants’ team leader or the other chaperones,” as required to state such a claim of deprivation of civil rights.
Lynch wrote that “Abdisamad’s amended complaint does not plausibly allege that a Lewiston policy or custom led to R.I.’s death. Its factual allegations do not support a plausible inference that the city defendants’ actions resulted from an unconstitutional policy or custom. They include no facts whatsoever about a Lewiston policy that would be unconstitutional and create municipal liability.
“To the contrary, the amended complaint alleges that R.I.’s death resulted from defendants’ ‘failure . . . to follow their protocols,’ rather than from defendants’ actions that were consistent with a Lewiston policy or custom.
Attorneys Edward Benjamin Jr. and Kasia Park of Drummond Woodsum in Portland, who represented the city in the suit, said Thursday: We acknowledge this is just a tragic case. The court ruled that, under the facts that were alleged by the plaintiff, it didn’t state a federal cause of action. And so the case could not proceed in federal court and the federal civil rights claim was dismissed.”
Verne Paradie, of the Lewiston law firm Paradie and Rabasco, who represented Abdisamad, said in a written statement Thursday: “This is a very disappointing decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Immunity for governmental entities needs to be seriously reconsidered by our courts. With the recent death of George Floyd, the issue of governmental immunity for actions of employees has come to the forefront and hopefully our Supreme Court will address this issue in the near future. This family unnecessarily lost their son because of inadequate procedures in place on the field trip and the court has said they have no recourse for a death that could have been prevented.”
According to the complaint, the school trip included 111 students and 11 “chaperones,” all school employees. A single lifeguard was on duty at the beach area of Range Pond.
A team leader from the school discussed “ground rules” with the students when they arrived at the park.
Neither the lifeguard nor anyone else representing the state, which owns the park, spoke to the students about safety rules, according to the complaint.
Sometime after 11 a.m., one of the students reported to a chaperone that he couldn’t find Issa, referred to only as “R.I.” in court papers.
Witnesses said the lifeguard on duty “appeared not to know what to do in the situation and asked other chaperones to get in the water” to look for Issa, according to the complaint.
Local rescue workers who responded to an emergency call found the boy underwater and rushed him to a Lewiston hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Source: SUN JOURNAL