Summary Judgment Reversed in Case of Massachusetts Teen’s Drowning in Swimming Pool

In a Cape Cod premises liability lawsuit, the duty of care that a landowner owes to an individual who comes upon his or her property can vary from case to case. One of the primary considerations is whether the individual had the landowner’s invitation or implied permission to be on the property or whether he or she was a trespasser.

Usually, trespassers are owed a lower duty of care than those who are on another’s property with permission. However, this is not always so.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) appellate case, the plaintiffs were the administrators of the estate of a 17-year-old high school student who drowned in a swimming pool that belonged to the defendant city. According to the record on appeal, the student was a trespasser and gained access to the pool through the girls locker room (an area in which had no authority to enter). The depth of the water was not marked on the pool, and the student was not able to swim. In their wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought compensation based on a theory of negligence and premises liability. The defendant filed a motion seeking summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ claims against it. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Decision of the Appeals Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. In the appellate court’s view, the primary question was whether the student both knew of and understood the risks that were posed by entering an area with an unguarded swimming pool. Although the lower court answered the question in the affirmative in granting summary judgment to the defendant, the reviewing court disagreed with this result. Rather, the appeals court held that the question at hand was one of fact, not law, and should have been reserved for the jury’s determination at trial.

In so holding, the court of appeals acknowledged that, under Massachusetts law, a landowner’s duty to a trespasser is not the same as his or her duty would be to someone who was on the subject property with the landowner’s permission or implied consent. Generally speaking, in the case of a trespasser, the landowner only owes a duty to avoid wanton and willful conduct. However, the court went on to point out that, when the trespasser in question is under the age of 18, landowner owes a more heightened duty. Because children and youth may not realize the risks involved in certain dangerous situations, landowners owe a duty of taking reasonable care to avoid harm to them.

Call a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Cape Cod

If you have lost a loved one in a swimming pool accident, the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III can help you explore the possibility of filing a claim for wrongful death against the owner of the property upon which the pool was located. To schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights and the process of seeking compensation in a court of law, call us at 888-262-6664 or contact us through this website. We have offices located in both Hyannis and Plymouth, and we serve all of the Cape Cod area.

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