By now, many of us have heard this tragic, yet heartwarming story. Last May, a 24-year-old bride-to-be was celebrating her bachelorette party with a group of friends, when all decided to go swimming. What happened next left the woman paralyzed; one of her bridesmaids, her best friend, playfully pushed her in the pool, the same “horseplay” they (and all of us) have engaged in so many times before. This time, however, the young lady fell in the shallow end of the pool and hit her head on the bottom; the fall snapped her neck and she slowly floated to the top. The 25-year-old knew instantly something was wrong; she asked friends to call 9-1-1.
The North Carolina woman suffered a C6 spinal cord injury that has left her paralyzed from the chest down, unable to walk. To complicate her situation, she is unable to marry her college sweetheart because of her health insurance situation. The young woman and her fiancé still plan to wed, one day; the girls are still best friends. While this freak accident has turned into a heartwarming story about love, friendship and the power of positivity, it is also provides a perfect example of how unfortunate mishaps often have long-term consequences.
Who’s swimming pool was this? Would the law consider the best friend negligent in this situation? Is litigation against the pool owner or the friend a possibility? Wouldn’t a favorable settlement help offset long-term medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity, pain and suffering? This young woman’s life has changed forever.
There have been no reports of alcohol consumption relating to this incident. But, as a general proposition, shouldn’t drinking and swimming be considered as dangerous as drinking and driving? If you own a pool and your guests are drinking, why not close off the pool area or, at a minimum, warn guests to refrain from drinking and/or horseplay around the pool. Ask those who refuse to cooperate to leave (appoint a designated driver to take them home). There can be no compromise on pool safety. You may be literally dealing with a life and death situation.
The young victim in this case says it was a freak accident; that it could happen to anyone. She doesn’t hold her friend responsible. But, legally, is the friend responsible? Is the pool owner? If the victim decided to file a lawsuit, how would it effect relationships? Should that matter? Would the lawsuit have a chance at success? Aren’t situations like this the reason we all carry insurance? We expect to be sued when we harm strangers, in similar situations; why should we be offended when our friends avail themselves of these same remedies? Wouldn’t we want our catastrophically injured friends to be fully compensated? Wouldn’t we want them to receive the best care possible? Why do we constantly seek to avoid pursuing insurance coverage at such great personal sacrifice?
Success or failure of any potential lawsuit would be within the purview of a judge and/or a jury; in some states property owners are not responsible for the actions of adult guests at social functions. The home owners may or may not have a legal obligation to supervise or prevent the accident from happening. But, the conduct of the friend, pushing a person into shallow water, may be actionable and may be covered by the home owner’s insurance policy attributable to that friend. Unfortunately, where there are people, there will always be these types of accidents; simply acting responsibly would prevent and/or reduce incidents and risks.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a personal injury plaintiff. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. The series features super-trial lawyer Zachary Blake handling "ripped from the headlines" legal and political issues of the day. The series currently consists of Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, and Betrayal High, with a sixth Zachary Blake novel due out later this year. To learn more about these topical social justice legal thrillers. please visit markmbello.com. Mark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.