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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Family Loses Suit Over Hero’s River Drowning

(CN) - The family of a man who died after saving a boy from drowning in Geneva, Ill., cannot prevail on its lawsuit against the city, a state appeals court ruled.

Randy Suchy died in 2011 after saving 12-year-old Evan Schultz who fell in the Fox River.

Suchy's estate filed a wrongful death and survival lawsuit against the city of Geneva, its park district and Kane County, alleging that the defendants knew that people had been injured as a result of the currents created by the Geneva Dam.

The family claimed that the defendants' warning signs were inadequate and that the configuration of the land caused people to come close to the dangerous water.

Those defendants eventually persuaded the Kane County Circuit Court, however, that they had no control over the dam and the river, which are owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The court also found that the defendants also did not have a duty to warn visitors about the open and obvious risks of drowning.

A three-judge panel with the Appellate Court's Second District in Elgin affirmed on March 28.

"Open and obvious dangers include fire, height and bodies of water," Justice Ann Jorgensen wrote for the court.

Though Suchy's family has alleged that the river included manmade, aerated currents that were not open and obvious, they failed to make this argument in the complaint and raised it for the first time on appeal, according to the ruling.

The estate also failed to establish that the defendants owed them a duty to warn or protect against the risks of drowning.

"As further reflected in photographs submitted by the plaintiff, water flowed over the dam," Jorgensen wrote. "In the absence of any alterations by the defendants, the risks presented by the dam and river were nothing other than risks inherent in bodies of water and dams."

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