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Falling Tree Killed Kids, Family Settles for $1.25M

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 24, 2011 6:47 AM

A falling tree killed two young children in Illinois when it fell onto their family's tent. The family filed suit, alleging the campground deaths were the result of a failure to act on the part of the property owners. They recently settled for $1.25 million.

The victims, 4-year-old Dustin Stuebs and his sister, 9-month-old Savannah Stuebs, were on an outing with their family in 2008 when tragedy struck at the Indian Trails Resort.

The Stuebs were camping in a designated area. They were warned by fellow campers that a storm was coming, so they requested to be moved to a log cabin on the campground property.

Officials told them they would have to wait a few days until the cabin was cleaned, according to the State Journal-Register.

Soon after, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning on July 21, 2008. The campground never alerted the campers. They also didn't evacuate. When Jason Stuebs, the father, awoke that night he discovered a dangerous situation with high winds. He carried two of his children to their nearby car, and was returning to the tent when the tree fell, killing Dustin and Savannah.

The tree itself was suffering from trunk rot. The Stuebs allege that if the campground had instituted any tree inspection policy, it would have been removed.

It's likely that the Stuebs could have alleged multiple counts of negligence. For one, the campground could be found negligent for not warning campers about the possible weather storm. And they could be negligent for failing to ensure their property is safe by not inspecting trees for rot.

Why did the family settle for $1.25 million over the campground deaths? Their attorney told the Journal-Register that the family is scarred after the tragedy. Reliving the events during a jury trial - that the falling tree killed the two young children - would simply be unbearable.

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