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Jury Sides with RI in Paralyzed Man's Lawsuit

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 09, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Brett A. Roy, paralyzed as a result of a swimming accident in a Rhode Island state park, lost his bid for compensation on Monday when, after 7 days of deliberation, a jury sided with the state, awarding the injured man nothing.

What's fascinating about this case is not the outcome, but instead the fact that it was premised on a unique state statute that overrode the jury's decision that both parties were equally at fault.

In July 2008, Brett A. Roy and his family took a trip to World War II Memorial State Park in Woonsocket, where there is a large swimming pond. He reportedly dove into a shallow area, causing injuries that resulted in paralysis, reports WPRI-TV.

Brett Roy argued that Rhode Island was responsible because, as there were no lifeguards on duty to warn him, the lake should have been drained. But, according to the station, "No Swimming" signs were posted at the swimming hole.

On Friday, the jury told the judge that it had apportioned the blame at 50-50, reports The Providence Journal. The judge then told the panel that it must decide on damages.

It awarded nothing.

This is actually an odd outcome for a negligence case that has apportioned the blame evenly. Ordinarily, the parties would, at the very least, split the cost of medical expenses. The plaintiff would also likely be awarded reduced overall damages.

However, Rhode Island has a special statute that severely restricts the liability of landowners who permit persons to use their property for recreational purposes without cost. They're only responsible for willful and malicious actions.

Brett A. Roy, paralyzed as he may be, didn't pay to use the park, and because the jury found that the state didn't act willfully, he receives no compensation.

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