No Liability in Death of Atlanta Businessman

Case Caption:  R. Travis Collins as Personal Representative of the Estate of David Knowlton, deceased, v. Marriott International et al.,Civil Action File Number 1:09-cv-22423
Court:  United States District Court, Southern District of Florida
Judge:  Hon. Ursula Ungaro
Plaintiff’s Attorneys:  Robert Parks, Miami; Everette Doffermyre Jr., Doffermyre Shields Canfield & Knowles, Atlanta
Defendant’s Attorneys:  Todd Erenreich, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, Miami
Alleged Damages:  Wrongful Death
Verdict: $0
Date of Verdict: July 24, 2012

Wealthy Atlantan, David Knowlton, flew to the Bahamas to spend a few days with friends and escape his marital woes.  Knowlton owned a $2.5 million vacation home at The Abaco Club, a golf community managed by Ritz-Carlton.  Knowlton disappeared after walking away from his friends as they took photographs, toward a place called The Point, a natural cliff situated high above a 30-foot blow hole.  His body was later discovered in the ocean with blunt force trauma to his head and shark bites.  There was some evidence of alcohol in his system.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the representative of his estate, alleged that the Defendants should have known and were negligent in their failure to warn of the dangerous condition at The Point. A day after Mr. Knowlton’s body was discovered, the Defendants erected a fence and a warning sign, although it is unclear whether the jury was told about the subsequent remedial repairs.

At trial, Mr. Knowlton’s friends conceded that he had been familiar with the area, and that they did not need a sign to warn them of the potential dangers. Nor could anyone really say how or where Mr. Knowlton had entered the water.
After a short deliberation, the jury found that Mr. Knowlton was 99% responsible for his own death, the Defendants only 1%, and awarded no damages.

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