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Summary Judgment for Spa in Wrongful Death Case Involving Whirlpool.

We obtained summary judgment in a wrongful death case arising from an alleged drowning in a whirlpool at a spa. The decedent, a 73-year-old woman, was found unresponsive by a lifeguard in the client’s whirlpool. There was no evidence as to how long the decedent had been submerged in the hot tub before she was found. The Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy and listed the decedent’s primary cause of death as hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with cardiomegaly. Drowning was listed as a significant contributing factor. The plaintiff argued that our client was negligent by positioning the lifeguard in such a manner that the lifeguard would not have a direct line of sight to the bottom of the whirlpool from the lifeguard station, and that, had the plaintiff been discovered earlier, she could have been resuscitated. The defense produced an expert liability report stating that the client was in compliance with all applicable codes and standards. The defense also presented an expert medical report from a cardiologist who opined that the plaintiff suffered sudden cardiac death and could not have been resuscitated. Plaintiff’s counsel relied upon the Medical Examiner’s conclusions to prove medical causation and did not serve a liability report. Without reaching the issue of liability, the court found that the plaintiff did not meet the burden of proof on medical causation. The plaintiff could not simply rely upon the Medical Examiner’s conclusions as to the cause of death as he is not an expert in cardiology.

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