Boy to receive no damages in injury case
URBANA - Despite a request for millions in damages, a Champaign County jury Friday awarded only $15,000 to a Bement boy who lost much of the vision in one eye in an accident at the Sadorus Sportsman's Club almost two years ago.
But in reality, Dylan Schwartz, 10, won't get a dime. That's because the jury found that his father, David Schwartz, a finish carpenter from St. Joseph, was solely to blame for Dylan's accident because he didn't properly supervise his son.
In Illinois, a minor cannot sue a parent for damages.
Facts in the trial, which began Tuesday, were that Dylan and his father were at the rural Sadorus club on Oct. 27, 2001, with several other guests who had been invited by Dylan's paternal grandfather, William "Al" Schwartz of Ivesdale. The event was a family picnic and trap shoot.
About 4:30 p.m. that Saturday, Dylan was standing in front of a machine that launches targets for the trap shooters at more than 200 mph when one hit him in the left eye.
Dr. Bruce Miller, an opthalmologist at Christie Clinic, testified that Dylan lost about 99 percent of his ability to see straight ahead with that eye, but he does have some peripheral vision. There is no current surgical procedure available to correct that, Miller said. The vision in his other eye is fine, he added.
Dylan testified that he approached the trap house on the day of the accident because "I thought if my dad went down there, it was OK for me to go down there."
On cross-examination by club attorney Bianca Green of Champaign, Dylan said that with the exception of having trouble judging baseball pitches, there is not much he can't do since the accident. And he doesn't have bad dreams about it, he said.
The suit was brought against the club in March 2002 by Dylan's mother, Lori Schwartz of Bement, who is divorced from David Schwartz.
The club then turned around and sued David Schwartz for negligence in failing to properly supervise his son, who was 9 at the time of the accident.
Al Schwartz testified that he was a director of the some 300-member club at the time of the accident. He said he spent almost every weekend on the grounds doing volunteer work there such as planting trees, maintaining the campgrounds or fixing leaky faucets.
The elder Schwartz testified that besides a trap-shooting range, the 16-acre club features a rifle range, barbecue area, pavilion, campgrounds and fishing lake.
On Oct. 27, 2001, he had reserved the club for a picnic and trap-shooting event for co-workers of his from the University of Illinois and members of their families. Several children were present.
Al Schwartz said he was one of four club directors authorized to run the trap-shooting machine. But on that day, he said, he told another guest to turn off the machine by means of an external remote control box.
That guest, Kevin Sampson of Sidney, did that, but testified he didn't know that by turning the switch to off it meant that whatever target might be left in the machine would be discharged. Testimony was that the machine expels the residual target to render the machine safe. It was that leftover target that hit Dylan in the face as he stood a few feet in front of the machine.
Dylan's attorney, William Faber of Decatur, argued that the club was negligent in not following its own rules regarding who should operate the machine.
But Green countered that Dylan was aware of the risks posed by the machine, having been warned by his grandfather that day to stand clear of it and having been to the club on numerous prior occasions when trap shooting was going on.
Green argued that the club was not liable but if it were, the blame should be shared with David Schwartz for not supervising his son adequately.
The jury deliberated less than three hours before returning the verdict. The jury found that no blame was to be assigned to the club or Dylan but that all of it lay with his father.
Faber had suggested the jury award Dylan $3.5 million in damages from the club. David Schwartz' attorney, John Taylor of Urbana, argued that his client was not to blame for what happened to his son.
You can reach Mary Schenk at (217) 351-5313 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.