An 18 year old young man from Kansas dove from the dock into a lake in 2005 and came out without being able to walk again. The water where he dove was less than 4 feet deep, but was not properly marked.
A jury in 2007 held the corporation that owned the lake responsible for this injury and awarded 20 millions dollars for the permanent, catastrophic injury to the young man. The jury did find the boy was 20% at fault in causing his own injury, and thereby reduced the verdict to 16 million. The result would not necessarily have been the same in a Virginia (VA) court. Because Virginia (VA) is one of only four states left in the country that keeps the old rule of contributory negligence, the boy might have received nothing in a Virginia (VA) court, if the jury felt that his fault was a proximate cause of his own injury. This rule is extremely unfair and at times leads to jury verdict of zero where there is only minor fault by an injured person with such a terrible injury from the accident. As a quadriplegic, the young man can only partially use his arms and will be in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Clearly the Kansas jury felt that the substantial fault lay with the corporation that owned this lake and the company that was suppose to provide life guard services.
Spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis are all too common in diving accidents. Anyone who is providing a recreational swimming and diving facility has to be aware of the need to mark the pool or the body of water, so that people know where it is safe to dive and where it isn’t. The Kansas business must have had notice of the risk, yet failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the tragedy, or the jury would not have held them responsible for the tragic consequences to this young person.
For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Property Owners’ Liability.