Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Connecticut issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man who slipped and fell after exiting a public pool after an aqua-therapy class. The court was tasked with determining whether the municipality that owned and operated the pool was entitled to immunity, despite the fact that it had charged a fee to the organization that put on the aqua-therapy class. Ultimately, the court concluded that, while the municipality did charge a fee for the usage of the pool, the fee was nominal and did not result in the municipality making a profit. Thus, government immunity remained intact, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was participating in an aqua therapy class taught by a local organization that provided rehabilitation services. The organization had requested the use of the pool by sending a one-page request to the municipality and agreeing to pay a $50 fee. The organization was not the only group to use the pool, and when the pool was not being rented out to a group, it was designated for public use.
After the class, the plaintiff exited the pool and walked back to the men’s locker room. On his way, he slipped and fell on a wet step, injuring himself in the process. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the municipality, claiming that its negligence in maintaining the area around the pool resulted in his injuries.
The municipality asked the court to dismiss the case based on the theory of government immunity, which attaches when a government is engaging in a discretionary function. The plaintiff agreed that the operation of the pool was a discretionary government function but argued that an exception applied because the municipality was charging a fee for the pool’s use.
The court looked at the relevant statute, which removes government immunity when an injury is a result of “negligence in the performance of functions from which the political subdivision derives a special corporate profit or pecuniary benefit.” The plaintiff claimed that the fee charged to the organization waived the government immunity. However, the municipality’s recreational director presented the court with the municipality’s detailed financials, showing that the pool operated for a net loss of roughly $5,000 in previous years. Thus, the municipality argued that although it charged a fee, it did not derive “a special corporate or pecuniary benefit.”
The court agreed with the municipality, finding that the fee charged was nominal. In so holding, the court rejected the plaintiff’s request to consider the profitability of the pool only during the one-hour aqua-therapy class. The court explained that there was no authority for interpreting the law in that manner and declined the opportunity to do so. The court also noted its concern that, had it ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, the decision would open municipalities across the state to broad liability that they had not previously faced.
Have You Been Injured in a Connecticut Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Connecticut slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Connecticut personal injury lawyers at Brickley Law have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of Connecticut premises liability lawsuits, including those based on accidents that occur on publicly owned property. To learn more about how Connecticut law may apply to your case, and to speak with an attorney about your injuries, call (203) 966-6600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.