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Pool's owner did not breach any duty owed to boy

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict in favor of the owner of a pool in a lawsuit filed by the father of a young boy who drowned in the pool. The appellate court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving certain jury instructions.

James Androusky III drowned in Cole Walter’s residential swimming pool. Walter is the former stepfather of the boy’s mother’s boyfriend, Matthew Hollingsworth. The mother, Tammra Androusky, was married to James Androusky II for a period of time and had three children with him. James Androusky II did not pay child support and even attempted to sign away his rights to the children at one point.

Tammra Androusky, Hollingsworth, and her children stayed at Walter’s home over his objections. He did not want them staying there, but allowed them to stay just one night as long as they left after eating breakfast. Walter went to work, but Hollingsworth and the others stayed late in the morning. Two of the boys were allowed to play outside unsupervised near the pool. When Hollingsworth and Tammra Androusky discovered James Androusky III was missing, they found him at the bottom of the pool.

James Androusky II, individually and as a personal representative of his son’s estate, filed a wrongful death action against Walter. The jury ruled in favor of Walter, leading James Androusky II to appeal, claiming the trial court abused its discretion by instructing the jury to determine whether the boy was an invitee or licensee; by instructing the jury regarding abandonment under the Child Wrongful Death Act; by instructing regarding a state administrative pool safety regulation; and whether the trial court properly instructed on the effect of a parent’s failure to supervise his or her child around a known and obvious condition upon the land.

The evidence at trial shows the boy and his family were licensees and not social guests or invitees. There was also evidence introduced to show that James Androusky II rarely saw his son and provided little to no financial support. He even filed with the court a document to attempt to terminate his parental rights for the exchange of the non-enforcement of his child support obligation. Under the Child Wrongful Death Act, a parent who abandoned a deceased child while the child was alive is not entitled to recovery under the act.

The trial court didn’t err in giving the instruction on the administrative pool safety regulation in place at the time of the boy’s death. James Androusky II argued that the regulation required that the fencing outlined in the regulation was to be immediately around the pool, not just the yard. But a plain reading of the regulation doesn’t support that interpretation, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander in James Androusky, II, Individually and as Personal Rep. of the Estate of James Androusky, III, Deceased v. Cole A. Walter and Tammra Androusky, No. 83A01-1103-CT-137.

Finally, James Androusky II’s complaint with respect to the instruction on parental supervision turns on the perceived unfairness in depriving him of recovery for the death of his son due to the negligence of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. His argument is misguided, Friedlander wrote, because it is focused entirely on his right to recover damages and ignores the fact that Walter’s negligence must first be established. Walter did not owe a duty to the boy and the sole proximate cause of the boy’s death was the mother’s lack of supervision.

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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