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Polar Bear Plunge fatality sparks wrongful death lawsuit

This weekend, several hundred New Jersey residents participated in the annual Polar Bear Plunge charity event in Sea Isle City. The fundraiser, which involves a winter jump into the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean, has become increasingly popular in recent years. People from throughout the region come to take part in the weekend's festivities, which often seem to revolve around parties and alcohol instead of charity. This is what the parents of a deceased Pennsylvania woman are alleging in a wrongful death lawsuit that was recently filed against the city, a local hospital, the police department, and several individuals.

The 35-year-old woman passed away in February 2009, during that year's Polar Bear Plunge weekend. She did not participate in the plunge, but was in town to observe the event and celebrate with friends. While police are not sure of the exact cause of her death, she is believed to have died of hypothermia and acute intoxication after a night out.

According to police reports, the woman spent the night drinking and celebrating with friends, and was last seen leaving a restaurant with a friend at approximately 2 a.m. Her body was found five hours later in a Sea Isle City bay. Police have not yet determined what happened in that time, but they ruled the woman's death accidental.

The New Jersey wrongful death suit, however, places blame on 19 defendants who the woman's parents say share the responsibility for their daughter's death. Among the defendants are the owners of two bars visited by the woman on the night she died, the hospital where she was pronounced dead, and the Sea Isle City Police Department and individual officers who allegedly did not let rescuers treat the woman for hypothermia after she was found.

In addition, the lawsuit blames Sea Isle City, which it claims had a permissive attitude toward "public drunkenness and public alcohol consumption", creating a danger by "encouraging people to expose themselves to frigid air and water, risking hypothermia."

If you or a family member is considering a wrongful death lawsuit, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: NJ.com, "Parents blame Polar Bear Plunge for daughter's 2009, death, sue 19 people involved", 12 February 2011

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