Court affirms summary disposition of wrongful death claim arising out of child's drowning in hotel pool. Expert testimony limited to content of Interrogatories.
The family of a 32-month old boy sued the Rest-All Inn of Oscoda after the child drowned in the hotel pool during a family reunion. Surveillance video apparently indicated that the door to the pool was blocked open with a brick, and the child wandered in to the pool moments ahead of his mother. Even though she arrived within three minutes, searching for him, the child stepped into the shallow end of the pool and drowned within three minutes. The family argued that the hotel should be responsible for the death because it did not comply with rules about access to the pool and because the lack of clarity in the water prevented the child's family from discovering him immediately.
A jury heard the case and although it found negligence on the part of the hotel, it concluded that the hotel's lack of due care did not "cause" the child's death. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The family argued that the jury was tainted by the judge's decision to allow the hotel to use an edited version of the surveillance tape in evidence. The higher court ruled that use of the edited recording was an allowable exercise of discretion, given the fact that the full tape was also admitted. The family also objected to limiting instructions that the trial judge placed on the family's expert witness testimony. The Court affirmed the trial judge's ruling that allowed the experts to testify only to with regard to vague descriptions of their testimony that were contained in the Plaintiff's Answers to Supplement Interrogatories.