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Hodson v. Taylor: Premises Liability Claims

Hodson v. Taylor, a case from the Supreme Court of Nebraska, involved plaintiff who was injured in a lake accident. Plaintiff and group of friends were invited to lake house owned by the parents of a member of group. All members of the group were around 18 at the time of the accident.

sunset-winter-scene-1250442-m.jpgThe family owned a pontoon boat, which the teens took out on the lake. The teens had each consumed several beers and would drive the boat to a location where they would jump into the water several times and swim around. After going to a few locations in the lake and engaging in these activities, the boat made a stop at the group’s final location. At this point, members of the group jumped off the boat repeatedly and swam around in the lake.

At one point, plaintiff jumped off the pontoon boat and hit an object he believed to be the bottom of the lake. None of the teens were sure of the lake’s depth at the time of his injury, but they all reported they swam without touching the bottom. Hitting the object in the lake was the last thing plaintiff remembered from that day.

When plaintiff hit the object and/or lake bottom, his spinal cord snapped in half at the C-5 vertebrae, leaving him completely and permanently paralyzed from the chest down.

Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit under a theory of negligence against the girl who invited them to the house, her parents who owned the house, and lake homeowners association.

During depositions, one of the teens testified he was able to walk after jumping off the boat because the water was only knee deep at the area in which plaintiff was injured. This conflicted with his other testimony he was able to swim in the entire area.

A sand and gravel company once owned the land in which the lake now sits. The company would dig sand and gravel and fill in the area with groundwater, eventually creating the man-made lake. The company eventually issued a quitclaim deed to the lake association, which essentially operates a cooperative ownership trust for the lake. Each of the homeowners surrounding the lake can use the lake, as long as they are members and pay dues to the lake owner’s association.

Plaintiff argued the lake was known to be unstable due to shifting sand and silt, and the lake owner’s association was aware of this hidden dangerous condition. As our Boston premises liability attorneys can explain, property owners had a duty to protect foreseeable visitors from foreseeable injuries. This general duty of care is different from other states and could include a duty to warn of known hidden dangers.

The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appealed this dismissal, and, on appeal, the court reversed the dismissal with respect to lake association, so the further proceedings could be held to determine liability. This could include allowing a jury to hear the claims and make a determination of fact pertaining to liability.

If you are injured in an accident in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Hodson v. Taylor , , March 13, 2015, Nebraska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Summer Swimming Pool Safety in New England, May 15, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog