Dad Denied Immunity for Teen's Tubing Accident
(CN) - A Washington man may be liable for a tube-riding accident that left his 17-year-old son a quadriplegic, a state appeals court ruled.
On a trip to Tiger Lake, near Belfair, Wash., in July 2010, Michael Woods drove a jet boat approximately 30 mph, towing his son, Torre Woods, and the teen's friends in an inflatable tube.
When the tube hit a wake, all three boys went flying. Torre broke his neck when one of his friends landed on him.
He sued his father for negligence in Pierce County Superior Court, and also filed a product-liability claim against the manufacturer of the tube, H.O. Sports.
The company recommends that the maximum speed for the tube should be 15-20 mph.
Michael told the court he was "always careful to operate the boat at a speed that Torre was comfortable with," but he admitted that he could probably have prevented the accident by driving slower.
Citing parental immunity, the trial court dismissed the case against Michael.
A three-judge panel of the Washington Court of Appeals reversed on Aug. 19, noting the three exceptions to Washington's parental immunity doctrine: when a parent is driving an automobile, engaging in a business activity, or engaging in willful or wanton misconduct.
The parental immunity doctrine is intended for cases involving "parental control, discipline or discretion," according to the ruling.
"Torre's lawsuit alleges that Michael failed to exercise ordinary care while operating his boat in an inattentive, careless or negligent manner," Judge Rich Melnick wrote for the court. "Torre does not allege that Michael acted negligently in allowing him to engage in the activity for which he received his injuries."
For that reason, Torre may have a case.
"At the time of the accident, Michael's relationship with Torre was not that of parent and child, but of a boat driver and tube rider," Melnick wrote.