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Appeals court upholds ruling in wrongful death suit

Patricia M. Jarzobski

A wrongful death lawsuit is usually filed by surviving family members of someone who has died because another party was negligent. Many circumstances can result in the filing of such a suit. A recent case was brought before an appellate court concerning a woman who died in a Colorado river rafting accident. The wrongful death suit was filed by the woman's son but did not end as the son was anticipating.

Before the woman embarked on her rafting adventure, she signed a release of liability, a common agreement required by rafting outfitters. The contract specifically stated that there were hazards with any rafting venture that could result in injury or death. The lawsuit brought by the son stated the company misrepresented the extreme dangers that could occur and that the guides on the trip were irresponsible in their navigation of the river. It further claims that the woman would have never signed the agreement had she clearly understood the risks.

The ruling by the judge in the original case was that the woman relinquished any liability on the part of the rafting outfitters by signing the agreement. In the appellate decision, one of the judges said there should have been a trial by jury to decide whether or not the woman was actually misled as to the level of danger looming on the river. Even so, the appeals court upheld the original decision and said the policy set forth by the state was well defined.

Losing a family member in any circumstance is heartbreaking. However, when it is the result of an action that possibly could have been avoided, it seems to be even worse. As in this case, wrongful death suits can be complicated and may necessitate retaining an attorney with comprehensive knowledge of the laws in Colorado.

Source: chaffeecountytimes.com, "U.S. appeals court affirms outfitter liability policy in wrongful death rafting case", Robert Boczkiewicz, Jan. 7, 2016

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