Tom J. Griffiths, ED.D., Aquatics Expert ::::
After checking into her hotel with her extended family, and spending considerable time on the beach observing the ocean and taking pictures, the plaintiff, a non-swimmer, was injured when she was struck by a boogie boarder shortly after she entered the water.
The plaintiff testified that she was enjoying the ocean waves by turning her back on them as they broke on her. When she did venture into the water, she spent most, if not all her time in knee deep water. The plaintiff testified that she observed the lifeguards on duty, some of the signs, and that she noticed the female boogie boarder repeatedly catching and riding waves.
The two lifeguards stationed nearby combined for nearly 50 years of lifeguarding experience on the shore. They were also both professional educators during the academic year.
The plaintiff stated that she was struck from behind as she faced away from the ocean and towards the beach, and as a result, her ankle was broken along with other ancillary injuries.
Although lifeguards did not observe the quick collision and resulting injury, according to the statements of the lifeguards immediately after the incident, they did notice the plaintiff was well within the boogie board beach and away from the “Swimmers Only” beach, shortly after she was struck. Keeping boogie boards out of the swimming area was enforced verbally by lifeguards and reinforced by a buoyant line in the water separating the two different swimming areas.
In his deposition testimony, the Supervisor of Beaches stated that keeping boogie boarders out of the “swimming only” side was strictly enforced by the lifeguards on duty.
Lessons Learned: Lifeguards cannot prevent all accidents, particularly in the surf environment. As the old Hawaiian saying goes, “Never turn you back on the sea.” In this case, a very modest financial award was accepted by the plaintiff before and instead of going to trial.
Tom J. Griffiths, ED.D., Aquatics Expert at DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or by phone at 215-659-2010.