You probably are not liable, but the PR cost of not making sure your guests are going to be safe could swamp your business.

Strainer traps several and creates near drowning on Ohio river that is canoed regularly.

I first saw this from a FB post which described more than the article does.

Canoe liveries are big business in Ohio and the Midwest. They provide a great way to all types of people to get on a river and enjoy nature and the water. The Big Darby Creek in central Ohio is one of those rivers.

In this case a strainer stretched most of the way across the river. It caught canoe after canoe which eventually forced one woman under the strainer where she was held for several minutes. CPR brought her back and everyone was saved. However the harrowing minutes on the river, 911 calls and the press reported the story.

The article at the end identifies the canoe livery who had rented the boats.

Whether or not the livery had any knowledge of the problem in advance is not known. However this is a great teaching situation where you can see the bad public relations costing more than possible litigation. Ohio has great release law and even allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. See States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

If you owned or ran a canoe livery should you send a boat down in the morning to check things out? Granted the tree could have fallen after the first staff boat went through and before the first rented canoe came down the river. However the odds are better that the tree fell overnight.

The next issue is whether the canoe livery had the right to remove the tree even if they did find it. I don’t remember Ohio water law enough to know.

If you know of the situation, should you inform you guests? Could you have posted a sign upstream of the strainer? What else can you do?

See: 9 canoeists pulled from Big Darby; 1 seriously hurt

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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By Recreation Law         James H. Moss

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4 Comments on “You probably are not liable, but the PR cost of not making sure your guests are going to be safe could swamp your business.”

  1. As always, love your synopses and I’ve become a regular and enthusiastic reader. I just wanted to let you know I think your link at the bottom — the one to the primary story — is dead. Also, wanted to suggest that this was not, in fact, a near-drowning (that terminology no longer exists since the 2002 World Congress on Drowning in Amsterdam). In fact this woman drowned, but survived. Thanks again for your great posts and keeping those of us outside the legal community updated on these types of cases!


    • Thanks! I think the link is fixed. Curious that a drowning is no longer a death, but something else which you may or may not recover from.

      I thought keeping track of bird names was tough….

      Thanks again!


      • Hahahaha — yes, the terminology is ever-changing and quite confusing. Actually, what is truly curious is that the medical community tolerated for so long such an awkward term as “near-drowning”. In no other diagnostic medical condition that I can think of do we exclude everyone who survives from analysis. We don’t have “near-heart attack” or “near-pneumonia”. It made epidemiology and scientific understanding nearly impossible from a nomenclature standpoint. To have fatal and non-fatal drowning actually now brings it much more in line with other medical conditions… which is crucial since it is such a disproportionately common emergency and wilderness medical condition.


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