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Wrongful death could be applied in fatal skydiving venture

Imagine that you want to go skydiving. You head outside of Montgomery County, Maryland to a popular skydiving company and go through a couple of hours of training. The skydiving professionals check your parachute and clear you for the adventure. Then, tragedy strikes: after you and your instructor jump off together, the parachute fails to open.

Could your family file suit for wrongful death in this imaginary situation?

The answer is not as straightforward as you would think. When negligence on the part of a person or organization contributes to a person's death, they can certainly be held liable in a wrongful death suit. The same goes for faulty products or unsafe conditions that contribute to fatal accident -- the people responsible for ensuring such risks do not happen could be held responsible for, well, allowing them to happen.

Our hypothetical situation above actually happened in New York, where a 49-year-old man and the 25-year-old skydiving instructor in charge of him fell to their deaths due to a problem with their parachute.

The issue with the skydiving situation is assumed risk. Choosing to jump out of a plane that is thousands of feet in the air is not exactly a "safe" activity. It is clearly dangerous and could have fatal consequences. Because there is a great amount of assumed risk with jumping out of a plane, the families of the victims in the New York skydiving accident may have a tough case to present should they go forward with a wrongful death suit.

Source: Reuters, "Wrongful Death in New York Skydiving Accident?," Andrew Lu, June 19, 2012

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