Defendants claiming that their statutory violation was not a cause of negligence bear the burden of proving such.
Plaintiffs, a mother and her daughter, appealed from a judgment of the Superior Court in favor of defendants, a motel and its owner, in a wrongful death action brought in connection with the drowning deaths of plaintiffs' other family members in defendants' motel pool. Plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action after the family father and son drowned in defendants' motel pool. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the trial court's refusal to find as a matter of law that defendants were negligent and that this negligence was the proximate cause of the deaths. Plaintiffs also challenged the trial court's refusal to give a jury instruction regarding contributory negligence, and the trial court's exclusion of two health inspection reports.
Whether plaintiffs sustained their initial burden of proof in a wrongful death action?
The court agreed and reversed, but remanded for a new trial because the parties' respective burdens were not clearly defined at trial. The court found that plaintiffs sustained their initial burden of proof and that defendants then bore the burden of showing that defendants' statutory violation was not a cause of the deaths. The court found it was error for the trial court not to give plaintiffs' requested instruction that, as a matter of law, the child was not contributorily negligent. The court also found the inspection reports were admissible as relevant to the issue of wilful and wanton negligence.
The court reversed the judgment of the trial court that found in favor of defendants.