Who Is Liable for a Drowning Death?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly ten people die in the U.S. every day due to unintentional drowning. In many cases, drowning deaths are the fault of negligent pool operators who fail to maintain proper safety standards. Unfortunately, establishing a premises owner’s liability is often difficult when it is not exactly clear when or how the victim drowned.
Verdict Against Eastern Connecticut Resort Tossed Due to Lack of Witnesses
For instance, a Connecticut judge actually threw out a wrongful death verdict after deciding the jury was wrong to find the defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death. The victim’s estate appealed the judge’s action. But the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed with the judge and upheld his decision.
The tragic events leading to this case occurred in July 2011. The victim and his friends went to a resort operated by the defendant in Eastern Connecticut. The resort featured a lake with a designated swimming area. There were no lifeguards on duty and a sign warned patrons, “Swim at Your Own Risk.”
One of the victim’s friends later testified that the victim had been swimming right behind him. But a few minutes later, he could no longer see the victim. The friend notified the resort, who began a search. Emergency rescue personnel eventually located the victim “floating unresponsive just below the surface of the water.” Attempts to resuscitate him failed. An autopsy confirmed the victim died of “asphyxia due to submersion,” i.e. drowning.
The estate sued the defendant for wrongful death, alleging it was negligent in two ways: first, it failed to provide lifeguards at the swimming area; and second, it failed to take “reasonable steps” to secure the safety of its patrons, including requiring them to wear life jackets while in the lake.
The jury ruled for the defendant on the first issue but sided with the plaintiff on the second. The jury also found the victim was 49 percent liable for his own death. But under Connecticut law, a plaintiff can still recover damages if his “comparative fault” is 50 percent or less.
Although the jury awarded damages, the judge ultimately set aside the verdict and entered judgment on all issues for the defendant. As the Appellate Court explained in its own opinion affirming the trial judge, the victim’s drowning “was unwitnessed and unexplained,” and the estate introduced no evidence explaining how the defendant’s negligence was the “proximate” cause of the victim’s death.
A New London Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
After an accident, you may think it is “common sense” that someone else’s negligence was the cause. But judges tend to demand more than common sense. An experienced Waterford-New London wrongful death attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your loved one’s death was not a random accident, but the result of negligence. Contact Polito & Harrington LLC today to schedule a consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.