Delaware law regarding host liability for death of a child attendee at pool party.
The defendant Tiera Brown held a party for her daughter's second birthday at the home of the Urquharts. The Urquharts agreed to let Tiera use their in ground pool and deck area for the party. Tierra gave an invitation to the party to Tappitchar Bass. About an hour into the party, Bass arrived with several children, including the plaintiffs' son, Damond. Bass had been babysitting Damond that day and decided to bring him to the party. At some point during the party, Damond was found at the bottom of the pool. A medical examiner found that the cause of Damond's death was drowning due to neck trauma. The plaintiffs, Damond's parents, brought a wrongful death action against Tierra Brown and her mother Tracy Brown. The Browns moved for summary judgment, asserting that they owed no duty to Damond based on his status as an uninvited attendee accompanied by a babysitter who was responsible for his supervision. The plaintiffs claimed that Tracy was liable for failing to provide supervision or warning in the course of attending the party. "Mere attendance at a party does not support the existence of any affirmative duty to act for the protection of a fellow attendee[,]" the court observed. Thus, the court granted Tracy summary judgment. The court reached a similar conclusion with respect to Tiera. The court could discern no material basis upon which to distinguish this case from Laser v. Wilson, 473 A.2d 523 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1984), Horace v. Braggs, 726 So. 2d 635 (Ala. 1998), and Englund v. Englund, 615 N.E. 2d 861 (Ill. App. Ct. 1993). In those cases, the courts concluded that, absent an express or implied shifting in supervisory responsibility, a social host or landowner owes no duty to supervise or warn a child guest under the care of a parent, guardian or other person entrusted with his welfare who is on the premises and aware of a danger to the child. Here, Damond was under the care of supervision of Bass during the party, which the plaintiffs acknowledged by bringing an action against Bass for negligent supervision. "The risks associated with bringing children to a pool party should have been apparent to Bass." While hosting the party placed Tiera under a duty to avoid creating an unreasonable risk of harm to any of her guests, there was no evidence that she violated this obligation or that the scope of her duty expanded to encompass Damond's supervision. Accordingly, the court granted Tiera summary judgment.
Case Law Alert - 4th Qtr 2010