A federal court in Alexandria is hearing arguments this week over the wrongful death drowning lawsuit filed by the family of a Virginia woman who tragically drowned while taking scuba diving lessons at Lake Rawlings, Virginia. The plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit survived motions by the defense to throw out the suit on the grounds the deceased was fully aware of the risks involved with scuba diving.
According to the suit, the 36-year-old victim drowned while taking scuba diving lessons at Splash Dive Center with her husband in preparation for the couple's anniversary trip to the Caribbean. During the second day of underwater training, the victim was found 57 feet underwater after becoming separated from her diving group.
The plaintiff contends that despite the inherent risk of taking part in a scuba dive, the defendant acted negligently by failing to properly supervise the divers in training. Defense attorneys for David Hays, the owner and scuba instructor for the dive shop, argued the victim assumed the risks involved with scuba diving after she signed two separate releases forms.
The court allowed the case to proceed and admitted into evidence parts of the release to show the victim may have known scuba diving was dangerous, but other portions of the waiver were held to be void. While The Cochran Firm, D.C. does not represent any of the parties involved in the suit, our firm regularly represents the families of wrongful death victims.
The issues at hand in the case are complex and fall into a legal gray-area as state law holds injury victims in Virginia may not waive their right to sue for injuries caused by another’s negligence. On the other hand, Virginia law holds an individual’s voluntary assumption of the risk of injury from participating in an activity known to be dangerous usually bars that individual (or their family, in the case of a wrongful death suit) from recovering damages for negligence alleged to have caused the injury.