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A popular track and field coach at a California high school died in a freak accident. Can anyone be held liable?
Marion Adams was riding his bicycle after track practice at Rio Linda High School near Sacramento early Tuesday when he looked over his shoulder to say goodbye to a student, reports The Sacramento Bee.
By turning, the coach apparently failed to see a partially open metal swing gate in the school parking lot, and was impaled by the gate arm.
The 59-year-old coach was taken to a nearby hospital where he underwent several surgeries. Adams eventually succumbed to his injuries and died.
In most cases, fatal accidents can be blamed on someone or something. In this case, Adams' relatives could potentially explore ways to sue the high school over his death. Generally speaking, a school (or any property owner) may be liable for dangerous conditions on their property, in certain situations.
Dangerous conditions can include slippery floors, buildings that are not built to code, exposed electrical wiring, and even protrusions that unnecessarily create a risk of harm like an open metal swing gate.
To prove premises liability, the plaintiff will typically have to show that the property owner owed a duty of care to the victim, failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property, and that this hazardous condition caused a foreseeable accident.
In Marion Adams' case, proving the school's liability may be difficult. It's unclear if the metal swing gate could be considered a hazardous condition, and it may be hard to prove that a death by impalement would be a foreseeable result of the gate being left open. Furthermore, Adams' looking over his shoulder to say goodbye to a student may have contributed to the tragic accident.
Sometimes accidents are just accidents that don't warrant legal liability. Unfortunately, that may be the case in the freak accident that killed the popular high school coach.