A Tucson jury has awarded $2.75 million in damages to the family of a mother of two who drowned in a hotel swimming pool in 2017.
After a 10-day trial earlier this month, the jury ruled against the ex-owner of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on South Alvernon Way.
The lawsuit claimed the woman’s death was caused by an overly steep slope in the pool floor, poor lighting and a lack of safety equipment.
The victim, Mei Hu, 35, who could not swim, was visiting Tucson from Suzhou, China, in March 2017 when she ventured into the shallow end of the pool and ended up in deeper water.
The pool lighting was poor and there was no safety rope to show where the shallow water ended and deep water began, the lawsuit said.
“If there had been a rope, she could have used it to save herself,” said Tucson attorney Michael Crawford, who represented the family.
The jury found the victim and the hotel equally responsible for the tragedy and halved the initial $5.5 million verdict to $2.75 million. That’s nearly triple the $1 million the family was willing to settle for last year in a settlement proposal the ex-owner rejected, Crawford said.
The money will be split between the victim’s husband, her parents, and her two young sons.
The jury in the case was not told that there was a drowning, in 2010, and a near-drowning, in 2006, at the pool. A judge ruled the earlier incidents were not similar enough to be relevant and would prejudice the jury.
The DoubleTree was owned at the time by a holding company linked to US Bank, which acquired the hotel in 2011 when a previous owner went bankrupt, and operated it until late 2017.
Phoenix attorney Ryan Sandstrom, who represented the ex-owner, could not be reached for comment on the verdict. He did not respond to an email and a voicemail left at his office Wednesday.
Crawford, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said he expects the ex-owner’s insurer will cover the damages the jury awarded.
The DoubleTree, which borders Reid Park, was purchased in late 2017 by Tucson developer Allan Norville. A spokesman for Norville said the pool was replaced during recent renovations.