The state Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit that stems from the drownings of two children in the Lake of the Ozarks on July 4, 2012.
Ashland resident Angela Anderson’s thirteen-year-old daughter Alexandra and 8-year-old son Braydon died while swimming at the family’s vacation home on the Lake’s Gravois arm. They were shocked when devices on the family’s dock released electricity into the water. The shock left the children unable to swim and they drowned.
Anderson filed a lawsuit against Union Electric, doing business as Ameren Missouri, the company that owns the lake. She argued it did not properly inspect the family’s dock, did not include a ground fault interrupter or warn dock owners of the need for one, and did not warn dock owners of increased wear and tear on docks that could result from a nearby marina and restaurant permitted by Ameren.
Anderson argued that those were Ameren’s responsibilities because it charged a permit fee for placement of the dock on the lake, which her suit argues amounts to a fee for using the lake.
A court in Morgan County dismissed Anderson’s petition saying Ameren is immune to claims based on its ownership of the lake, an alleged failure to keep the lake safe for recreational use, or a failure to warn recreational users of risks while on the lake. The Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal, finding that the company’s fee was only for placement of the dock, not the use of the lake.
Two judges disagreed with the court’s decision. Judge Richard Teitelman wrote a dissenting opinion in which he says the dock was on the lake only after Ameren’s fee was paid, and says the dock fee amounts to a charge for the children to use the dock to access the lake. He believes Ameren is not immune.