San Diego

La Jolla Cove Near Drowning, Later Death Prompts Lawsuit Against City

Morteza Akbarzadegan is accusing the lifeguards on duty of negligence; he says it led to his father's death

One man claims his father’s near drowning at La Jolla Cove and subsequent death could have been prevented with more attentive life guards, improved tower positioning, and better signage to warn beachgoers of dangerous conditions.

Morteza Akbarzadegan has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Diego accusing the lifeguards on duty of negligence and willful misconduct and the city of dangerous public property conditions that led to his father's death. 

Hamidreza Akbarzadegan nearly drowned while snorkeling with his family in July 2017, leaving him with severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen, the lawsuit claims. Akbarzadegan remained in a vegetative state for more than ten months before dying on May 17, 2018.

Morteza Akbarzadegan said the lifeguards told the family it was OK to continue snorkeling after a period of unsafe water conditions.

On that day, the son noticed his father was missing and waved to lifeguards for help, the lawsuit stated. When they did not notice, the son swam back to shore to alert lifeguards.

The lawsuit claims the lifeguards delayed rescueing the father when the son alerted them.

Two teenagers swam ashore with the father’s body and lifeguards began administering first aid with the help of a bystander who performed CPR, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims the lifeguards determined their Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) was not functioning properly and could not be used.

Lifeguards continued to administer CPR and first aid until EMTs arrived and transported the father to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

The son seeks financial recompensation for emotional suffering and burial-related expenses.

More broadly the lawsuit claims “La Jolla Cove lacked adequate, sufficient or properly located signs” to warn the public of potential dangerous swimming conditions.

Representing the family, Attorney Jonathan Kwan first filed the lawsuit in April 2019.

City lawyers said in court documents that the city is not liable for injuries caused by natural conditions of unimproved public property nor for injuries caused by participation in a potentially hazardous recreational activity.

"This death was a tragedy, but under law taxpayers cannot be held responsible," City Attorney Mara Elliott said.

In December 2017, the son submitted a claim against the city for the same reasons listed in the lawsuit. The city rejected the claim, according to the lawsuit.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn scheduled a Nov. 8 hearing for the case.

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