$20 million settlement
A 16-year-old guest visited a private beachfront swimming and diving facility at Lake Quivira. He was with a group of high school students playing beach volleyball. Upon arrival, he went to the diving boards and proceeded to do a series of acrobatic flips and dives. Then he headed down a lengthy boardwalk toward the beach and dived into an area of the lake near where competitive swimming events occur. The water at that location was only four to five feet deep. The boy’s head hit the lakebed, causing an injury.
Sometime in the late 90s, the boardwalk had been resurfaced and “no diving” signs were removed and never replaced, so there were no signs on the boardwalk warning guests of the depth of the water, nor were there signs prohibiting diving from the boardwalk. The bottom of the lake was not visible in the area where the plaintiff dived.
Although the rules at Lake Quivira purportedly prohibited diving from anywhere along the boardwalk, the owner and the lifeguards responsible for the boardwalk did in fact allow diving off one specific area. In addition, competitive swimmers regularly dived from a form constructed below the boardwalk but in the same area where plaintiff dived.
The plaintiff claimed that Quivira Inc. was negligent in maintaining a dangerous condition, failing to warn of the depth of water in the area where plaintiff dived and failing to warn against diving in that area. The plaintiff also claimed Missouri Valley was negligent in failing to advise Quivira Inc. to post proper warning signs and in allowing patrons to dive off the boardwalk. After a two-week trial conducted by Jim Frickleton and Mike Rader, the jury returned a $20 million verdict for the plaintiff.
Michael C. Rader and Michelle Marvel resolve case for family of the 10-year-old killed last summer on a local Kansas City waterslide. Settlements for the family totaled more than $19.7 million.
On Aug. 7, 2016, Caleb Schwab died while riding the Verruckt slide at Schlitterbahn, a water park in Kansas City. Verruckt, German for “insane,” was marketed as the world’s tallest waterslide at its 2014 opening. Schwab is the son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe. Scott Schwab, his wife, Michele Schwab, and the Estate of Caleb Schwab filed the wrongful death action.
On Jan. 11, the family settled with SVV 1 LLC, and KC Waterpark Management LLC, which collectively make up Schlitterbahn for $14 million, and with raft manufacturer Zebec of North America Inc. for $500,000. The settlement was approved by District Judge Thomas M. Sutherland. Sutherland approved a second round of settlements on April 12 with the National Aquatic Safety Co., a consulting firm, for $232,125; and with Henry & Sons Construction Co., which built the ride, for $5 million. Altogether, the settlements totaled $19,732,125.
Rader said retained experts were instrumental to obtaining the settlements. To help sift through theories of liability, he consulted with experts from fields including polymer fiber science, biomechanical engineering, computer forensics, accident reconstruction, warnings operations, restraint devices and ride design. Some of the design and testing of the slide occurred in Texas, allowing the plaintiffs to argue that Texas law applied. Rader said Texas’ law regarding noneconomic damage caps in child wrongful death claims is more favorable than that of Kansas. “We never could have made a viable argument that Texas law applied without first becoming well versed in the facts regarding the design, construction and operation of this ride,” he said.
After Schwab’s death, one of the most pressing issues the attorneys handled was an intense interest in the case by media outlets around the world. The young boy was decapitated when the raft in which he was riding became airborne and crashed into metal rods supporting the slide’s overhead netting, his attorneys said.
$9.5 million settlement
As the weather cooled, a Missouri father turned on the furnace in his family’s recently purchased home. It was the first time they had used the furnace that winter. By the next evening, the man and his daughter were found dead and his wife and son had suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning with resulting permanent brain damage.
Post-accident inspections found significant amounts of rust blocking the flame ports on the furnace’s burners, disrupting the normal gas flow and causing incomplete combustion. This condition resulted in the production of carbon monoxide in lethal amounts.