(CN) – An Arkansas woman whose husband drowned in a hotel pool will get a second chance to pursue wrongful-death claims, a state appeals court ruled.
The Bishop family of Scott, Ark., was staying at the Howard Johnson hotel in North Little Rock in March 2008.
Guy Douglas Bishop Jr. experienced distress in the pool and began to thrash about in the water while giving his 8-year-old son, Steven, a piggy-back ride toward the deep end.
Jerri Bishop tried to throw her husband a ring buoy, but had trouble unwinding the rope and the life preserver did not reach him on the first throw. Steven swam to the ring after the second throw, and brought it to his father so Jerri could pull them out.
The 46-year-old father of three died after three days in the hospital, and his widow filed suit against hotel manager Joe Fisher and owner Tariq Inc. The negligence lawsuit claimed the defendants had failed to report the incident within 72 hours, to provide proper depth markers in the pool, failed to provide a lifeline between the shallow and deep ends of the pool, and failed to provide readily accessible life-saving equipment.
A Pulaski County court granted the hotel’s motion to exclude evidence of the first three points, ruling that they were more prejudicial than probative.
With only the accessibility of the ring buoy and shepherd’s crook in play, a jury ruled in favor of the hotel and manager.
After the Bishops appealed the exclusion of the lifeline, the Arkansas Court of Appeals agreed that the evidence should have been included.
“Here, the absence of a state-mandated lifeline had a tendency to make the hotel’s liability for Mr. Bishop’s death more probable,” Judge Josephine Linker Hart wrote for a three-judge panel. “The violation of a government regulation is evidence of negligence.”
“We discern no unfair prejudice in allowing proof that the hotel violated a state swimming-pool regulation that arguably contributed to a drowning death,” she added. “We therefore reverse and remand on that point.”