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Appellate Court Finds Student “Assumed the Risk” of Drowning in Recent Georgia Wrongful Death Case


Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a college student who drowned while on a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. The case required the court to decide if the defendant university could be held liable for the student’s death. Ultimately, the court concluded that the university could not be held legally responsible for the student’s death because he assumed the risk of danger by entering the water.

Crashing WavesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a 20-year-old student at a local Atlanta-area university. The student signed up for a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. Prior to embarking on the trip, university staff went over a few of the dangers of swimming in the ocean, and they asked if all of the students were comfortable swimmers. All of the students indicated that they could swim.

During the trip, a professor accompanied several students to a beach recommended by hotel staff. The students went into the water and stuck together in a group. However, at some point, a rip current began pulling the students out to sea. The plaintiff’s son was trying to stay afloat when he was overcome by a wave. The others lost sight of him, and his body was discovered three days later.

The parents of the deceased student filed a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit against the university, claiming that it failed to take adequate precautions to protect their son. In response, the university argued that the student voluntarily assumed any risk of injury or death by choosing to swim in the ocean.

The Court’s Decision

The court agreed with the university and dismissed the case. The court explained that, even if the university was somehow negligent in failing to warn the students of the dangers of swimming in open waters, the student assumed the risks involved by choosing to get into the water.

In Georgia, the assumption of the risk doctrine can act as an affirmative defense. In order to successfully establish that a plaintiff assumed the risk of engaging in an activity, the defendant must prove that:

  • The person had knowledge of the dangers involved;
  • He understood and appreciated the risks associated with those dangers; and
  • He voluntarily exposed himself to those risks.

Here, the court found that all three elements were proven by the university, and as a result, the university could not be held liable for the death of the student.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been seriously injured in a Georgia accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia negligence or wrongful death lawsuit. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience assisting accident victims and their families with seeking the compensation they rightfully deserve. Call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendant in Recent Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, July 5, 2017.

Georgia Appellate Court Clarifies When Accumulated Rainfall Constitutes a Hazard, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, June 27, 2017.

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