The family of a child who was critically injured after receiving an electrical shock at MGM National Harbor has sued the casino, asserting that the lighted handrail the girl grasped before she was hurt had been defective for days and should have been repaired earlier.
In addition to MGM, Whiting-Turner, the general contractor for the project, and Rosendin Electric, which did the electrical contracting work, are named as defendants in a complaint that alleges the defendants urged construction workers “to finish their jobs quickly, at the expense of safety” to hasten the Maryland resort’s opening.
The claim made Monday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court comes about three weeks after county officials announced that the FBI is helping county police investigate the incident — including determining whether corners were cut to speed the opening of the $1.4 billion project on the Potomac waterfront close to the District.
The lawsuit identifies the child who was injured and went into cardiac arrest that night as Zynae Green.
“The incident at National Harbor was a tragic accident and we are all heartbroken that Zynae Green and her family continue to suffer,” MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement. “We are committed to continue working with the family’s representative to reach a resolution. In the meantime, we will respond to this lawsuit in the appropriate venue, which is in court.”
Rosendin Electric said it will continue to cooperate with authorities.
“Given that the investigations of this incident are ongoing, it is too early in the process to reach any conclusions,” a Rosendin spokesman said in a statement Monday. “As one of the electrical subcontractors on the MGM project, our thoughts continue to be with Zynae Green and her family — and we pray for her full recovery.”
Whiting-Turner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the complaint.
Zynae, who turned 7 on Sunday, cannot speak, walk or move her limbs, said the family’s lawyer Benedict Morelli. She is able to track people with her eyes, which she could not do a month ago, but doctors say few substantial improvements are expected, Morelli said.
“This is about the absolute need to take care of this girl for the rest of her life,” Morelli said. “She’ll never be much more than what she is. She’ll never go to college or get married.”
DeShong said MGM had offered to assist with medical expenses but had been rebuffed. Morelli said MGM has offered “nothing” to the family.
“If in fact someone said they made an offer then I would love to hear what it is,” Morelli said.
According to the lawsuit, Zynae has been moved to an acute rehabilitation facility for 24-hour medical care after spending two months in the hospital.
“Her life-altering injuries will tremendously impact her and her family’s lives moving forward,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks damages to cover the cost of Zynae’s medical care for the rest of her life in an amount exceeding $75,000, plus attorney’s fees.
Zynae’s siblings, 5-year-old Carlos Green Jr. and 16-year-old Monya Rosier, also were shocked by the handrail and hospitalized for days, the lawsuit states. The children’s mother, Rydricka Rosier, was shocked when she tried to pull her children off the handrail.
The claim stems from events that summer night, when Zynae and her family were near a fountain area on the west side of the property.
Zynae had been swinging on a lighted metal handrail that had become electrified because of improper installation and faulty wiring, according to the report of an independent engineer hired to review the incident by Prince George’s officials. The wiring violated several county building codes and should not have passed the permitting and inspections process, according to the engineer’s report.
The independent engineer described the wiring feeding the lighting on the handrail as “terrible” and some of the “sloppiest work” he had seen.
The engineer’s report confirmed details in a preliminary assessment obtained by The Washington Post that said the handrail was improperly installed and used the wrong type of wiring for its LED lights. The engineer’s report and the preliminary assessment said the railing was installed at too shallow a depth, allowing the handrail to wobble and fray protective coatings that exposed bare wiring that came in contact with the metal railing.
Investigators also found that a device known as an LED driver — designed to cut 120 volts to 12 volts for the lighting on the underside of the handrail — failed.
When Zynae made contact with the electrified rail and swung her legs to touch another rail, she was jolted with 10 times the flow of electricity intended to power the lights, the county assessments stated.
Zynae went into cardiac arrest, but the property did not have a defibrillator immediately available to render emergency aid, the lawsuit asserts. Morelli said that if there had been a defibrillator on the scene that paramedics could have used right away, Zynae would not have lost as much oxygen to her brain and her present condition might be less dire.
Rydricka Rosier has stopped working to be with her daughter, Morelli said. She posted a video on Facebook with family members singing “Happy Birthday” to Zynae, who sits in a chair, unresponsive.
“Today is my baby’s birthday,” Rosier wrote in a caption. “Thanks to everyone for celebrating but it breaks my heart that she is here and not at home . . .”
The lawsuit asserts that the lights on the handrail had been malfunctioning for days before the incident, which “should have put Defendants on notice of a potentially dangerous condition whereby hotel patrons were at risk of being electrocuted.” The claim says security video shows what appears to be other visitors jolted by the handrail multiple times in the days before Zynae was injured.
The lawsuit also claims that the defendants urged the electrical inspector to approve faulty work.
According to a court document previously reviewed by The Post, a third-party electrical inspector at MGM National Harbor told county officials he reluctantly accepted work that wasn’t code-compliant because he felt pressure to do so from other construction entities. The document didn’t specify what the construction entities were or the nature of the pressure.
MGM said it hires “licensed, reputable construction and inspection companies to perform work that meets or exceeds state and local building codes.”
“The findings of faulty wiring contained in a report released by the county shows that the high standards that MGM Resorts expects of those contractors were not upheld, which is very disturbing and disappointing,” DeShong said in a statement. “We do not compromise safety when constructing our facilities.”