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Assumption of the Risk Doctrine Prevents Boy’s Family from Receiving Financial Compensation after Fatal Skateboarding Accident

Earlier this month, a California court issued an opinion in a case involving the family of a teenage boy who died when he was involved in a skateboarding accident. In the case, Bertsch v. Mammoth County Water District, the court held that the plaintiff’s case against several defendants was properly dismissed below because the teenage boy assumed any risks inherent in the “dangerous activity” of skateboarding.

SkateboardThe Facts of the Case

The father of the deceased boy took his two sons out for a trip to a friend’s cabin in Mammoth County, California. The two boys were out skateboarding in the few minutes they had before they were to meet their father to go rock climbing. On their way to meet their dad, the two teens were traveling up and down hills on their skateboards. They were not performing any tricks but were traveling at a “pretty fast” speed.

Sadly, as one of the boys was riding down a steep hill, his skateboard hit a small gap between the pavement and a manhole cover. This caused the boy’s skateboard to come to a stop, and it ejected the boy off the board. When he landed on the pavement, he struck his head, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He died a short time later from his injuries.

The boy’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several parties, including the water company that placed the manhole cover. He claimed that the cover was negligently designed and left an unsafe condition of public property, resulting in his son’s fatal injury.

Assumption of the Risk

The court’s decision hinged on its application of a legal doctrine called “assumption of the risk.” In short, this doctrine provides an affirmative defense when the injured party voluntarily took on risks associated with a dangerous activity. Specifically, in Georgia, the defense is applicable when the defendant can prove three elements:

  • The injured party had knowledge of the dangers involved;
  • The injured party understood and appreciated the dangers; and
  • The injured party voluntarily exposed himself to those dangers.

Here, the court determined that the boy assumed the risks involved with skateboarding, which the court held to be a “dangerous activity.” The court acknowledged that in some cases skateboarding can be used as a means of transportation, but that was not the case here, since the boy was pushing himself up a hill just to enjoy the thrill of the fast ride down. As a result of this ruling, the boy’s father will not be able to seek compensation for the loss of his son.

Have You Been Injured on Public Land?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using public lands, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Not all courts view a given set of facts in the same way, and variables are present in every case that may affect the outcome, including the attorneys involved. At Miller Legal Services, we have decades of experience holding negligent parties responsible for their actions and inaction. To learn more, call 770-284-3727 to set up a free consultation with a skilled personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

The Element of Foreseeability in Georgia Personal Injury Cases, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2016.

Splitting Up Fault in Georgia Personal Injury Cases, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2016.