Jury hears closing remarks

An attorney is seeking more than $1 million for the drowning death of the boy.



WARREN — Deliberations continue today in the wrongful-death lawsuit against a former fence company owner in the death of a 5-year-old Howland boy who drowned in his neighbor’s swimming pool.

John C. Henck of Cleveland, attorney for Roxanne Preston, the mother of Ali Zaire, is seeking $1,710,173 in damages from Tina Hall of Southington and her All Vinyl Fences and Decks Inc. The fences were constructed in 1997.

Ali, of Bellwood Drive, was found dead May 12, 2004, in the pool owned by Michael Raggozine, also of Bellwood, who wasn’t the owner when the fences were installed.

Raggozine’s insurance company already has settled with Preston for $288,000.

A different owner now operates the fence company and is not part of the lawsuit.

During closing arguments Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge Peter J. Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, Henck said the pool’s previous owner had two fences constructed — one surrounding the backyard and the other inside it and around the pool.

He said Preston’s subcontractor failed to obtain a building certificate from Howland Township and didn’t follow township zoning regulations in their construction. Such fences must be 6 feet high, Henck told the jury.

The outer fence is 6 feet high, but the interior fence is 4 feet high. The latches were not self-closing, he added, to prevent children from getting to the pool.

The defects, Henck argued, could have been caught by a zoning inspector if the zoning certificate and subsequent building permit had been obtained by All Vinyl, resulting in an inspection of the fences.

Atty. Thomas J. Wilson of Youngstown argued the property owner rather the fence installer is required to obtain the building certificate from the township.

He also told the jury the outer fence is 6 feet high since a part of it is comprised of the back of the house. As a result, there is no need for the inner 4- foot fence that surrounds the pool.

Wilson said that based on facts, the law and common sense, Ali was able to go through a gate in the outer fence because the latch was broken. The boy was able to go through the inner fence gate because the gate was slammed by member of Raggozine’s family and didn’t latch properly.

“I don’t believe my client was negligent,” Wilson said.

Henck asserted that Preston wasn’t negligent because she would occasionally check on Ali and his two sisters who were playing outside when Ali walked off to the neighbor’s pool.

He said “reasonable care” doesn’t require a parent to constantly watch her children.