DEARBORN — The family of 10-year-old Carson Dunn, who died after falling off of a water playscape at Camp Dearborn last summer, is suing.
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Ven Johnson on behalf of Dunn’s family.
On July 6, 2022, Dunn went to Camp Dearborn, which is owned by the city of Dearborn, and was on the Ripping the Waters Tarzan Boat.
His mom, Carly Burgess, said that her son was loved.
“He was a wonderful kid,” she said. “He loved his siblings very much. He was a great brother. He loved to play basketball.”
Dunn had been playing on the play structure when he fell from the highest platform, hitting a protruding ladder. He later died at the hospital.
“When you have a platform like the one 10-year-old Carson was on, 10 feet, 10 inches above the level of the water, and then you build a protruding folding ladder that goes over the top of the edge…” Johnson said. “They put the ladder directly underneath where this jump off point was.”
Johnson also said that there was only one lifeguard on duty and, paired with the “dangerous design” of the play structure, left Dunn with no hope. He also said that when Dunn landed on the ladder, the trauma caused internal bleeding and there were no workers or lifeguards on the structure and jet skis used by workers were not operational to get help to the platform quickly.
“I did not know that the jet skis were not in operation, or I would not have let him go there,” Burgess said. “They had to manually swim him back to the beach. So, the ambulance and everyone was waiting on him to get back to the beach. It felt like forever. It really did feel like forever.”
Johnson is representing the family in a lawsuit against the owners of the boat, the manufacturers of the boat and the city of Dearborn.
“They trusted the city of Dearborn and other entities to have safe products and things in the water,” he said. “Clearly, they didn’t. And sadly, they had to bury their 10-year-old boy.”
Burgess said that she and her family are still struggling with the loss, including Carson’s 2-year-old brother.
“I have to relive this every day,” she said. “It’s very difficult. When we go to his grave, I say we’re going to visit bubby and that’s what he has. That’s what he knows is his bubby. He sees pictures and he recognizes him, and he can say his name, and he remembers him, and when I show him videos, he wants me to play it over and over and over and over.”
“We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed in Oakland County Circuit Court related to this matter, but the city has not been served,” the city of Dearborn said in a statement. “We have no additional comments at this time.”
Burgess said that the goal of the lawsuit is to enforce changes that protect other children.
“I want justice for him,” she said. “He didn’t deserve this. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
The lawsuit alleges negligence, gross negligence, wrongful death and breach of warranty. It cites the Michigan Products Liability Act and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The allegations state that two employees at Camp Dearborn did not immediately provide lifesaving procedures, did not promptly call 911, and due at least in part to the lack of personal watercraft, were unable to transport Carson Dunn to the shore in a timely manner “for emergency treatment that would have saved his life”, that the owners/operators of the floating play structure did not provide adequate safety warnings to patrons using the structure as to the known dangers of foreseeable injuries, nor did they provide proper instruction, supervision and staffing, and that the defendants named in the suit “recklessly operated a floating playing structure that was known to be dangerous based on its improper assembly and location in the lake where patrons could not be transported safely and immediately from the lake” and that Sport Pontoons LLC designed, manufactured and marketed a floating play structure in a “defective and unreasonably dangerous condition and not reasonably safe for use.”
The lawsuit also states that Dunn’s mother and his older brother, Landon Dunn, who directly witnessed his death, have suffered and will continue to suffer in the future.