Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Case Filed after Fatal Skateboarding Accident

The Supreme Court of the State of California recently released an opinion in which they affirmed a lower court’s ruling granting summary judgment to the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. The negligence suit was filed by the family members of a boy who died after striking a manhole cover and falling from his skateboard while riding on a roadway that was operated by one of the defendants. The suit alleged that the defendants negligently failed to maintain a safe roadway and should be held accountable for the damages related to the boy’s death. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that by participating in the inherently dangerous activity of skateboarding, the boy assumed the risk that he would be injured or killed by a condition on the roadway. As a result of the state supreme court’s recent decision, the plaintiffs will be unable to collect compensation for their claim.

A Tragic Accident Results in a Boy’s Death

The plaintiffs in the case of Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District were the surviving family members of a boy who died in a skateboarding accident in September 2011. According to the facts as recited in the appellate opinion, the victim and his brother were skateboarding around the hilly Mammoth Lakes area while their family visited a condominium that was owned by a friend. While waiting to meet their father, the boys rode their skateboards around the roads “for fun,” and they repeatedly pushed up and rode down the same hill near the condominium complex. As the victim was descending the hill on one of these occasions, his skateboard wheels became lodged in a small gap between the roadway and a manhole cover, and he was ejected from the board. His head struck the pavement, causing a traumatic brain injury and resulting in the boy’s death.

Judgment Is Affirmed for Defendants in Plaintiffs’ Wrongful Death Lawsuit

After the boy’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by his family, alleging that the defendants maintained a dangerous condition on the roadway. Before a trial on the issues, the district court ruled that the plaintiff could not recover damages as a matter of law, since the victim had assumed the risk of serious injury or death by skateboarding for leisure on the roadway.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the state supreme court, arguing that the boy was using the roadway for transportation rather than leisure or sport, so the assumption of risk defense should not apply. The state supreme court agreed with the lower court and affirmed the judgment for the defendants, relying on the plaintiffs’ own evidence that the boys were skateboarding for fun. The court pointed to the fact that the boys descended the same hill repeatedly as evidence that the primary purpose for their skateboarding was not transportation.

Assumption of Risk and Comparative Negligence in South Florida Injury Lawsuits

Unlike in California, Florida courts do not recognize assumption of risk as a defense to tort liability, but the application of Florida’s legal doctrine of comparative negligence can have a similar effect. In Florida, if a plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their injuries because of their own negligence, their damages award can be reduced by the amount of their own fault. The Florida standard may be more beneficial to personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs, since a victim who assumed a dangerous risk by participating in some activity may still be able to recover damages from a defendant whose negligence also contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured or died in a South Florida accident, you may be entitled to damages even if you may have been partially responsible for your own injuries. Florida laws support plaintiffs’ rights to recover from negligent defendants, and the experienced South Florida wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the knowledge and skill to seek the compensation that you deserve. Our dedicated Miami personal injury and wrongful death attorneys accept clients throughout South Florida in many types of negligence cases, including those involving unsafe road conditions. If you have been seriously injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or by using our web form for a free consultation. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 13, 2016.

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