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March 2, 2012
The family of a former juvenile offender who suffered a brain injury at the Cherokee County YMCA will be paid nearly half a million dollars in a settlement.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc. and its Cherokee facility were accused of negligence after Cody Roszina, who was participating in a community service program, was injured by another community service worker in January 2008.
Prior to settlement, the YMCA maintained it had immunity under Georgia law and also asserted Roszina had released the organization from personal injury claims. A state judge, however, denied the organization’s claims. Following the Court’s order, the case proceeded to mediation. Under the terms of the agreement, Roszina and his parents, Mark and Ann Roszina, will be paid $495,000.
“The YMCA does good work, but was out of its element here, trying to make money hosting a juvenile offender program with no clue how to operate one.” said one of Roszina’s attorney, Mel Hewitt. YMCA spokeswoman, Kristen Obaranec, said Wednesday that the program, arranged through the county’s juvenile court, was discontinued in Cherokee in 2009. Youths in the program helped with maintenance, grounds upkeep and other chores, and received mentoring, she said.
While the YMCA was compensated by the county, the spokeswoman said the funds did not cover all the expenses the organization incurred. Obaranec also said no other arrangement currently exists with metro Atlanta juvenile courts.
“This was a one-time, completely freak and unforeseeable situation,” Obaranec said of the 2008 incident. “That program had been in place for 10 years without any issues at all.”
Cody Roszina’s mother had dropped him off at the Cherokee Outdoor YMCA in Woodstock as part of a sentence that included community service on the YMCA’s premises. Cody Roszina, who was age 17 at the time, had committed a “non-violent” offense, said another attorney, A. Lee Parks, although he wouldn’t detail the crime.
After his supervisor, sheriff’s Deputy Ronnie Reece, left to get snacks, Cody got into an argument with another youth, who hit him in the head with the iron fire poker.
“Not only had the employee been grossly negligent in leaving the boys unsupervised for an extended period of time, there was also a complete lack of oversight over how the community service program was operated,” Parks said. “These factors combined to create a very dangerous situation for these kids.”
Even though the deputy left the juveniles unsupervised, the Roszinas’ complaint said the YMCA was liable for having dangerous implements – the iron fire poker – where offenders could get them.
Parks said the now-20-year-old Cherokee man still suffers from the brain injury. He has difficulty concentrating and and is not able to work. “It’s still an uphill battle,” Parks said.
The settlement, which also calls for the YMCA to pay Roszina’s legal fees and mediation costs, will help pay for the man’s medical care and occupational therapy, his attorney said.