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Parents Sue Sea Isle City for Wrongful Death of Daughter
The parents of a 35-year-old Pennsylvania girl have filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against Sea Isle City for her wrongful death two years ago. Charles and Elizabeth Hottenstein claim negligence on the part of the Sea Isle City that caused the death of their daughter. The complainants have filed claims for negligence, wrongful death, and infliction of severe psychological pain.
In all, there are 19 defendants in the case, including Sea Isle City, South Jersey City where the charity event was held, a couple who invited the deceased to dinner, owners of the two bars where she was present that night, the hospital where she died, the doctor who pronounced her brought dead, many of Tracy’s friends that provided her with drinks that night, and the police department that did not allow rescue workers to perform treatment for hypothermia.
On 15 Feb 2009, Tracy Hottenstein, pharmaceutical sales representative from Conshohocken, went to Sea Isle City along with her friends to attend the annual charity event. She did not attend the afternoon plunge and stayed in the resort community that Saturday night. She was last seen leaving the bar with a friend at around 2:15 am Sunday. Five hours later, a passer-by, who incidentally happened to see Tracy lying unconscious on Sea Isle City bay, not far away from the bar, informed the authorities about her.
Cape May County authorities are still unavailable to comment as to how or why she fell off the marina that day, though they assert that she might have accidentally slipped into the water under the influence of alcohol, as she had drunk excessively at the night party. In the lawsuit, Tracy’s parents question the responsibility of the authorities and the bars that served her drinks. The lawsuit claims that Tracy was already drunk at around 4 p.m. that afternoon, despite which, bartenders continued providing her with
alcohol throughout the night. Blaming negligence on the part of the two bars, the lawsuit claims that had the bars adhered to the city's alcohol codes, the 15 February 2009 tragedy could have been averted.
The claimants accuse the Sea Isle City officials of failing to identify the hypothermia symptoms in their daughter, which could have otherwise saved her life. They claim that in their daughter’s case, due to hypothermia, blood flow had slowed down and pulse crawled, and seeing this, the Sea Isle City authorities, claiming that it was a case of hypothermia and acute alcohol intoxication, prematurely pronounced her dead, without even considering giving her fist aid, which might have saved her life.
The lawsuit blames Sea Isle City for negligence surrounding their daughter’s tragic death for not ensuring enough safety precautions that night. The couple claims that the Sea Isle City should have made proper emergency arrangements for the Polar
Bear Plunge event, which is known to attract innumerable visitors that are excessively served alcohol by the local bars, compelling them to drink heavily. They claim that the Sea Isle City commissioners were negligent in performing their duty to ensure that the city ordinances related to public alcohol consumption and public drunkenness are not violated.
The Hottensteins blame the South Jersey City’s “permissive attitude toward alcohol” during the Polar Bear Plunge for the death of their daughter. Terming Polar Bear Plunge a “state-created danger,” they claim that the city continues to sponsor the event, showing that in no way, shape, or form, they are responsible for the tragedy. The lawsuit claims that the city’s negligence is discernible in the way it organizes the event
and encourages participants to expose themselves to freezing air and water, risking hypothermia. In the lawsuit, the couple blames the city for failing to maintain public docks in the Ludlam Bay area, where Tracy was found unconscious.
In the lawsuit, Charles and Elizabeth Hottenstein complain of improper training of medicinal personnel at the bay, which failed to properly diagnose the symptoms and give her first aid. They have accused the doctor of declaring her brought dead without diagnosing her completely. The couple also accuses some of Tracy’s friends of ignoring her inebriated state and providing her with plenty of glasses of alcohol.
Since her death, Tracy’s parents have been urging the city authorities to pay heed to the annual Polar Bear Plunge, which attracts thousands of tourists that indulge in overdrinking, with some even experimenting running into the Atlantic Ocean's chilling waters. They expect the city to be more responsible toward organizing the event safely and securely so that nobody has to undergo the pain and agony underwent by them.
Seeking damages for negligence, wrongful death, and agony suffered by them, the couple wants justice for their daughter and expects that the law enforcement patrolling is stepped up at the Bay area, where Tracy was found unconscious, so that nobody loses their life like their daughter.
Two years after Tracy’s death, the Sea Isle City police and the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office have no clue about the real cause of the tragedy. The annual Polar Bear Plunge still continues, with the authorities turning a blind eye to public drunkenness and safety of tourists. This year, the event is going to be held Saturday and Tracy’s parents expect that no Tracy becomes a victim of negligence at the event again.
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