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Was negligence a factor in the water park amoeba lawsuit?

With summer upon us and temperatures expected to remain in the 90's throughout the entire first week of July, many families will probably seek respite from the heat at local water parks all over Texas. As we do so, however, we should keep in mind that the water parks we visit aren't always as safe as they appear.

We need only look to the wrongful death lawsuit filed against U.S. National Whitewater Center and other affiliated parties to see this fact. Though the lawsuit is against a water park in a different state, the circumstances surrounding the fatal accident could easily happen here in Texas. As would be the case here in Texas, authorities will need to determine if the water park was negligent and liable for damages.

The lawsuit against U.S. National Whitewater Center, et al

For those who don't know, the parents of a deceased 18-year-old woman claim gross negligence and recklessness were the reason their daughter was exposed to Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that causes a fatal brain infection, while visiting a water park. As compensation, the young woman's parents are seeking $1 million in punitive damages, explain s a Washington Post article.

The question now becomes: Was negligence a factor?

If this case was being handled in Texas, the following elements would be considered:

Duty of care

Property owners are expected to maintain their premises to ensure the safety of visitors on their property. In the case of U.S. National Whitewater Center, a reasonable person would expect the park to maintain the water filtration system to ensure guest safety and to take appropriate actions if there is an indication the park is unsafe. Some reports claim the water park did not do this.

Breach of duty of care

A property owner can be considered negligent if they are aware of a danger or dangerous situation, but fail to remedy the problem.

As an International Business Times article claims, "an employee had written to the county commissioner that even the raft instructors frequently contracted infections due to the poor quality of the waters." If this is true and the water park failed to rid the park of infection-causing pathogens, then one could argue the park was in breach of their duty of care.

Cause in fact

If the young woman's death was "in fact" caused by the water park's failure to properly treat the water in the park, then the park may be considered negligent and held liable.

Naegleria fowleri is known to be deadly and, as a CNN article points out, the amoeba was likely able to flourish because of the levels of dirt and debris in the water, which likely made the sanitation process less effective. Considering these points, one might conclude the young woman's death was caused by the water park's negligence.

Damages

If negligence was a factor in this case, the courts will then determine the actual harm to the plaintiff. In this case, the young woman's parents could seek compensatory damages, which would cover any medical expenses associated with their daughter's illness as well as funeral and burial costs.

Reports only indicate, however, that they are seeking punitive damages, which are damages above and beyond compensatory damages. These types of damages are meant to punish the defendant for their negligence, which could have been a factor in this case. 

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