Family of Drowning Victim Plans to Sue Oxford

The 24-year-old New Jersey man drowned in Jackson Cove Park in August.


The family of a 24-year-old New Jersey man who drowned in Jackson Cove this past summer plans to sue Oxford.

The town has been put on notice of a potential lawsuit from the family of Vingesh Viswenathan of Edison, N.J., who drowned on the night of Aug. 11 at the Oxford park.

The family plans to bring a lawsuit against the town and its agents and employees for “their negligent acts and/or admissions leading to the cause of death.” The notice of claim, filed at Town Hall, names (by positions held) the acting director of Parks and Rec., the acting chair of the Parks and Rec. Commission, the acting maintenance superintendent for Oxford and lifeguards on duty on Aug. 11.

Oxford officials say there were no lifeguards on duty at the time of the incident and that signs at the park stated such. Therefore, they say, Viswnathan, who did not pay for admission into the park and did not enter through the public entrance, was swimming at his own risk.

The notice of claim, filed by Attorney Alan Barry of Danbury on behalf of the family, states that the town and its employees “acted with negligence in the construction, operating, maintenance and management of the town’s beach are at Jackson Cove Park, leading directly to the death of Vignesh Viswanthan on Aug. 11, 2012.”

It further states that the town and/or its employees may be liable for:

  • failing to disclose in signage or verbal warning the sudden depth of water and strength of current within the beach swimming area, including a deep trench along the swimming dock, although these dangers were known by lifeguards and town deparment of park and recreation
  • failure of lifeguards to supervise the swimming area, taking care to watch and observe the status of swimmers, specifically Vignesh Viswanthan
  • failing to respond to Vignesh Viswanthan once in emergent situation, so as to timely intervene and save him from drowning

Viswenathan was with a group of about 25 to 30 people of Indian descent who were hiking at Kettletown State Park in nearby Southbury before they decided to go swimming at Jackson Cove around 6 p.m. Viswenathan went missing, and his body was found by divers hours later near a dock at the park, which is about 30 yards from shore.

In response to the notice of claim, Oxford First Selectman George Temple said he’s obviously sorry that the drowning situation happened, but pointed out that it happened when the lifeguard was off-duty and that Viswenathan was a trespasser.

“I don’t want to seem callous; I really felt bad about this situation,” he said. “I was up there that night. But I really think that we’re responsible for our own actions.”

He said the notice of claim has been turned over to the town’s insurance company, which will make a decision about whether to fight the claim.

“I can tell you, having practiced law for 35 years, that our insurance company will probably fight this pretty vigorously,” he said.

Barry, the attorney for Viswenathan, said his firm is still investigating and is seeking witnesses to the incident. 

Connecticut Yankee February 26, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Sad situation, but Mr. Temple appropriately states, ". . . we're responsible for our own actions."
C. Thomas Tarby February 26, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Very sad situation, but seriously, since lawyers received the legal right to advertise, no one has been "responsible" for their own actions. You can be sued for anything, anywhere, at any time and the lawyers all know the insurance companies will settle because it's "fiscally prudent" to do so. A shame our court system allows these things to go on.
cora nichols February 26, 2013 at 02:40 PM
How about this. Lawyers and their clients are responsible for the court costs incurred if they loose the case, or at lease pay half.
CMG February 26, 2013 at 04:46 PM
What a joke. You break the law and it's someone else's fault? Only in America. Thank you lawyers for ruining this country.
Ed Hardy February 26, 2013 at 05:05 PM
So, this person went into the park after swimming hours, decided to swim and now we are responsible. I suppose we are supposed to have a lifeguard on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year in case someone feels like swimming. Welcome to the nanny state!
SteveW February 26, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. But sadly, there is no such thing as personal responsibility any more .It's disgusting that his family is whoring out their dead relative for a shot at some easy money. The town should counter-sue his estate for the resources used for the search/recovery of this trespasser.
Tush February 26, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Waste of time AND lots of money. Only the lawyers benefit from frivolous lawsuits, and we pay them to just go away, as Mr. Tarby stated. I hope this will not be the case this time.
Roc February 26, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Not surprising as we live in a sue happy society.
Oxford Girl February 27, 2013 at 02:01 PM
The town of Oxford should charge each one of the 25 to 30 people who were there for trespassing. Then counter sue for the recovery effort expenses and legal fees incurred since this incident was brought on by the negligence and careless behavior of the trespassers.
James Property LLC February 27, 2013 at 02:57 PM
You are so right. I guess it does pay to break the law. Why can the town and residents sue his family for the inconvenience that was cause, none could use the park for a while, and they had paid. The people that are suing should have to pay the residents back for their loses. I know this don't sound nice, I feel their lose but come on.
Ed Smith February 27, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Attorney Alan Barry of Danbury is an example of the parasite class of tort lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits to enrich themselves at public expense. Even though he has no case, he is obviously aiming at an out-of-court settlement from the insurance company or the town, simply to save their money from fighting it, which costs more. Anyone not stupid understands that swimming in a river current can be deadly. The river and its natural danger has been there tens of thousands of years, but once the town puts some sand on the shore the parasite lawyers and greedy corrupt family of the stupid drowner suddenly see the opportunity to extort money from the public. Notice also the greedy family and extortionist lawyer do not sue the 29 other people who were actually on site and did not save him. The corrupt thieves-by-lawsuit reasoning seems to be that fellow trespassers are exonerated from any responsibility for the fate of a member of their own party. No doubt the parasite Attorney Alan Barry intends to use his loot to put more Americans out of work by purchasing an imported luxury car. We have seen this type before, whose "work" contributes nothing positive to society, further his destruction by sending his money abroad as more job-killing trade deficit.
Craig Zac March 05, 2013 at 05:03 PM
I like this idea... Arrest all those present for tresspassing and charge them all as accomplicis to the death of this guy. THEY were there THEY should have been over seeing the activities and goings on when this guy died. They should be held RESPONSIBLE for this tragic situation.... not the town.


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