County settles drowning victim case for $1 million



Both parties dismiss their appeals

By

Record-Eagle staff writer

     

MANISTEE - Manistee County settled a lawsuit over a man who drowned in the Manistee River for $1 million, nearly a decade after the case was filed.

     

The county last year was ordered to pay $600,000 after a federal jury trial, when it was alleged the county's then-sheriff prevented the rescue of Eugene Beck in 1995 because the sheriff was embroiled in a "turf battle" with a dive team.

     

The latest settlement puts an end to appeals filed by both sides over the jury award and legal fees and court costs, said plaintiff attorney Grant Parsons.

     

"They're paying a million bucks, and everyone is dismissing their appeals," Parsons said.

     

Manistee County's attorney, Christopher Cooke, said the county did not admit liability.

     

Cooke said the county's insurance carrier would pay the settlement, which he said has not been finalized.

     

Beck, 28, had been drinking when he plunged from the Memorial Bridge into the Manistee River channel and drowned. A witness called 911, and several members of a private rescue dive team arrived at the scene.

     

Parsons maintained that police prevented Beck's rescue because of a policy instituted by then-Sheriff Edward Haik to declare water rescues "crime scenes" and to prevent outsiders from offering help.

     

Haik did not return a message seeking comment.

     

Attorneys for the county contended there was no evidence that Haik, who is now a county commissioner, thwarted Beck's rescue. They argued that Haik realized he could not rescue Beck but attempted to offer assistance to anyone who could.

     

The City of Manistee settled the case last year for $300,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

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