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Bel-Air Bay Club Ordered to Pay $12M to Keck Family in Wrongful Death Case

Keck family wrongful death case

A lawsuit filed against a Bel-Air Bay club ended on November 25 with the jury rendering a $12M verdict to Katherine ‘Kitty’ Keck for the death of her 48-year-old son, and the alleged negligence of the club’s employees. 

William M. Keck III died from an arrhythmia caused by elevated potassium levels due to heat exhaustion on September 3, 2017. On that hot, humid day, Keck III had been playing in a paddle tennis tournament when he experienced cramping in his legs about 1:30 p.m. He retired to the facility’s locker room where he asked an attendant to massage his calf. Over the next several hours, the cramps intensified and began to spread throughout his body, and he experienced excessive sweating. It wasn’t until 4:57 p.m., when he started having trouble breathing, that paramedics were called by club personnel. Arriving four minutes later, the paramedics found Keck III turning blue and transported him to the hospital where he died less than an hour later. 

His mother, Katherine ‘Kitty’ Keck, sued the club for failing to administer proper first aid, and for waiting more than three hours after the onset of heat exhaustion symptoms to call 911. During the two week trial, her lawyers argued that the staff owed Keck III a duty of care to get him medical attention sooner and to follow procedures laid out by the club. “Safety was a big factor that was ignored and my son would still be alive if someone had just called for help,” his mother said. “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Her attorney, Bruce Broilet, added, “We think that the clubs and facilities have a duty to follow the proper first-aid procedure with regard to members or patrons who start to suffer heat exhaustion.” He continued, “They need to be calling 911 right away because heat exhaustion is extremely dangerous. It can turn into something much worse very quickly.”

According to court papers filed by the defense attorneys, Keck III allegedly had pre-existing medical conditions for which he refused to take prescribed medications. Their statement also claims he drank alcohol daily and smoked marijuana, which may have been contributing factors in his death. The papers state that due to these lifestyle choices, the club was under no obligation to call for medical help because they had no way of knowing that his potassium levels were reaching a point where recovery was not possible. 

The Santa Monica Superior Court jury determined that Katherine Keck had suffered $15M in damages for the loss of love and affection of her son, but also found William Keck III at 20% fault for his own death, and reduced the award by $3M. The club was ordered to pay $12M in damages to Katherine for the alleged negligence of the club and its employees. 

According to his obituary in the L.A. Times, Keck III graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in economics and earned his Master’s Degree in real estate from the University of Southern California. He was the great-grandson of William Keck Sr., who is the namesake for the Keck School of Medicine at USC, and the Keck Astronomical Observatory in Hawaii. 

As a known philanthropist, Keck III served on the board of the W.M. Keck Foundation – one of the largest philanthropic organizations – that supports the above-mentioned namesakes as well as “Sesame Street” on KCET, and other causes He also served on the board of the William M. Keck Jr. Foundation, known for its support of Midnight Mission, Meals on Wheels, and the Venice Family Clinic.