$31 Million Awarded to Iraq Vet Injured in Swimming Accident on URI Campus

photo_1999_20061006-200x300A jury has awarded $31.3 million to an Iraq War veteran paralyzed in a swimming accident at the University of Rhode Island’s Alton Jones campus. The accident took place in 2014 and left Brett Smith of Farmington, CT, paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of his hands. The jury awarded $28 million to Mr. Smith, and $3.3 million to his wife, Stacie Smith. The amount, awarded this week, constitutes compensation for past, present, and future pain and suffering as well as future medical care. It also includes an amount for home renovation and equipment expenses to accommodate Mr. Smith’s needs. Represented by his Rhode Island lawyer, Mr. Smith claimed that URI was negligent and failed to properly warn guests about the swimming risks on their property.

Incident Took Place on URI Premises

The accident took place the weekend of July 25, 2014 at the Whispering Pines Conference Center on URI’s Alton Jones campus where the Smiths were attending a wedding rehearsal dinner. After the dinner, some of the wedding party guests allegedly asked the staff if they were permitted to swim in Loutitt Pond and received responses from the staff that it was allowed. A group of guests decided to swim, some jumping off a large rock into the water. Smith did the same but struck his head on a submerged rock while swimming underwater after the dive. Smith’s lawyer states that alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

URI Blamed for Negligence

The Smith’s lawsuit claimed that URI was negligent in not posting signs warning guests that swimming was not allowed on the premises, as well as for staff failing to inform guests of the same, in addition to not directing the guests to exit the pond after they had begun swimming. Rhode Island law states that a homeowner, or business in this case, must maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner and exercise reasonable care for the safety of those reasonably expected to be on the property. This includes protecting against risks that the owner is aware of or should be aware of. In this particular case, management was aware of submerged rocks in the pond that could make swimming dangerous, and staff was supposed to tell guests swimming was prohibited. In addition, signage should have also been posted to alert guests.

Rhode Island Premises Liability

Premises liability cases, a type of personal injury case, often involve a slip and fall accident. Premises liability may also include dog bites, lead paint exposure, and in this case, failure to protect guests against risks of a dangerous condition. In RI, all property owners must exercise reasonable care for the safety of the people expected on their property. Guests were certainly expected on the property for the wedding rehearsal, and in this case, Mr. and Mrs. Smith claimed that URI failed to protect and warn Mr. Smith against the dangerous conditions in the pond. It was proven that his injuries were caused by URI’s negligence and they breached their duty of care by not taking necessary precautions to prevent accidents.

Contact a Rhode Island Premises Liability Attorney if You Have Been Hurt

If you have been injured on someone else’s property due to a slip and fall, dog bite, or another type of accident caused by another’s failure to maintain their property, you should seek out an experienced premises liability lawyer who specializes in RI and MA premises liability law. Tapalian Law is a personal injury firm that has helped countless clients seek compensation for their injuries resulting from the negligence of another. Attorney David Tapalian has helped victims of slip and falls, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, dog bites, and medical malpractice, seek damages for their injuries. Contact the Providence personal injury law firm of Tapalian Law today to seek legal advice for your injury claim. We offer a free, no obligations, consultation to discuss your potential personal injury case. Call us today at


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