A Georgia Injury Case From A Houseboat Nightmare

Sometimes it seems like corporations and insurance companies have bottomless pockets and will make endless arguments and motions to keep Justice from happening. Consider the case of Hightower v. Cox ,where the negligent Company tried to win a case based on the classic “blame the victim” defense. 204 Ga. App. 105 (1992). Most mere mortals don’t have the resources to fight a never-ending battle in the court room; but fortunately, Justice eventually prevailed!

Catastrophic Injuries From a Houseboat Accident

In the Hightower case, a company outing at Allatoona Lake turned to disaster when the owner of a company backed over one of his guests with a houseboat. Two guests were swimming near the place that the company host was attempting to dock a large, rented houseboat. As the victim was swimming near the rear of the houseboat, attempting to get onto the swim platform, the driver of the boat shifted the motor into reverse, causing the houseboat’s powerful engine to suck the swimmer into the propeller, resulting in catastrophic injuries.

The Classic Defendant Turning the Blame Back onto the Plaintiff

When the injured swimmer sued, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff had no right to recover since he had voluntarily ‘assumed the risk’ of swimming too close to the houseboat’s motor. The defendant asked the Court to dismiss the case using a motion known as a directed verdict. (A directed verdict is one that is ordered by the judge and is entered without jury deliberation when the evidence demands a certain outcome).

What the Witnesses Saw

Because witnesses testified that the Plaintiff was about 20 feet away from the boat and was swimming away from the boat when the driver shifted into reverse, the Trial Judge refused to dismiss the case. The Judge found that the question of whether the Plaintiff assumed the risk of swimming near the boat’s propeller was a question for the Jury, and not for the Judge, to decide.

The Chaos From the Verdict

After the Judge refused to dismiss the case, the Jury found in favor of the injured swimmer. The defendant appealed, saying that the Trial Court had made a mistake and should have dismissed the case based on the Plaintiff’s assumption of risk.

The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with the Trial Judge and ruled that the question of assumption of risk in this case was for the Jury to decide because it was unclear whether the victim was fully aware of the risks when the defendant put the boat in reverse. The jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff was upheld.

As you can see, even in a clear-cut case, companies and insurance defense lawyers sometimes file endless motions and appeals to try to deny the victim the opportunity to have their day in Court. This is especially disturbing because the business and insurance world invests so much money trying to convince us that you ‘are in good hands’ or that they are “on your side.” Finding a level playing field when you are in litigation with a corporation or insurance giant is very difficult. Only excellent legal representation by specialists serves to give the average citizen the edge it takes to win a well-deserved recovery.

You need your own expert when you go to war with a well-resourced opponent. Allow the legal team at The Millar Law Firm the opportunity to review the facts in your case before you allow yourself to give up on the chance for recovery. Call us today for a free review of your case.