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Landlord may be liable for trampoline and swimming pool accident

Under "premises liability" law, the owner of land may be held liable under certain circumstances for injuries that are caused by dangerous conditions on the property. While this liability generally does not extend to open and obvious dangers, a property owner may still be found liable where the landowner should have anticipated that the dangerous condition could cause physical harm, even though it was obvious.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case of Dos Santos v. Coleta provides a tragic example involving a trampoline and a swimming pool.

A flip into a pool leads to paralysis

The victim and his family were renting one unit of a two-family home in Framingham, the other half of which was occupied by the landlord. The landlord set up a trampoline immediately next to his inflatable vinyl swimming pool in the back yard. Although there was room to place the pool and trampoline apart from each other, the landlord wanted to enable his son and others to jump from the trampoline to the pool because it would be "fun."

One night, the victim, who had never used the trampoline, decided to play with his son after work. Unfortunately, when he attempted to perform a flip into the pool, he accidentally entered the water headfirst. His head struck the bottom of the pool, causing a burst fracture of his vertebrae. The victim was permanently paralyzed from the upper chest down, and his medical bills and related expenses exceeded $700,000.

The victim sued the landlord, but the jury returned a verdict in favor of the landlord. The victim appealed this decision, arguing that the judge had improperly instructed the jury regarding the law in the case.

Facilitating a dangerous situation

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court confirmed that the existence of an open and obvious danger does not necessarily relieve a landowner of the duty to remedy that danger. The victim's own negligence in encountering that danger also does not relieve the landowner of that duty, where the victim's negligent act should have been anticipated.

The landlord and the victim's children as well as visitors to the home frequently used the pool and trampoline, and the landlord was aware that people were jumping from one into the other. The landlord had never stopped the children from using it and took no steps, such as moving the items farther apart, to discourage or prevent anyone from jumping from the trampoline into the pool.

In addition, the landlord had set up the trampoline next to the pool with the specific intent to enable the type of use that resulted in the victim's severe personal injury. It would be simply incorrect to say that the landlord did not anticipate the risk of injury. The landlord knew that the pool warned against jumping of any kind and knew that the setup was dangerous, yet he actively facilitated the dangerous use.

Therefore, the trial court had erred in the instructions it provided the jury on open and obvious dangers, which substantially affected the victim's rights. The earlier jury verdict was set aside and a new trial was granted to the victim.

Compensation for your injuries

Whether you are injured due to the negligence of a landlord, or by a slip and fall due to a known danger at a business, you deserve compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one are injured, immediately seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights.

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