A judge's ruling could have major implications in a multi million dollar lawsuit filed following the death of a Northern Michigan teenager.
In August of 2011, 18 year old Michael Scott Knudsen died while swimming at Clinch Park Marina in Traverse City. A preliminary autopsy on 18-year-old Michael Scott Knudsen shows the cause of death to be electric shock/drowning. Investigators had said that preliminary indications were that a short in an electrical line which carries power to a section of floating dock caused electrical current to enter the water around the location where the teen was found. Officials say swimming at the Marina is prohibited.
In the wake of his death, Knudsen's family hired attorney Geoffery Fieger and Attorney Dean Robb, who filed a 50-million-dollar lawsuit against the city, a workers and inspectors they felt were negligent.
In a statement Fieger said bad wiring at the docks caused the teen's death and they claim the marina knew about the problem before the accident: "Our investigation reveals, without question, that the water around the floating dock area was electrified as a result of improper electrical wiring. The shoddy wiring and the danger of electrocution created by it appear to have been well known by the Marina prior to Michael's death. A horrifying death of a child could easily have been prevented with just a little care."
On Monday, Judge Power ruled on a defendants motion for summary disposition. According to attorney Gretchen Olsen, the judge granted the city's motion and "dismissed the claims against them, finding that the operation of Clinch Park Marina was a governmental function and the proprietary function exception did not apply."
She notes that the judge found in the matter against DPS director Bob Cole, that there was "no genuine issue of material fact that he was not grossly negligent."
As for the claims made against marina employee, Barry Smith, Olsen says the judge "concluded that even though there was no direct evidence Barry was aware of prior electrical problems that someone who worked at the Marina must have been aware and therefore a jury could conclude Barry was aware of also and failed to do anything about it." The suit against Smith can proceed to trial.
No word yet if this latest court ruling will be appealed.