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Estate of McFarlin v. Lakeside Marina, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

October 24, 2013

ESTATE OF DAVID PAUL MCFARLIN, BY its Personal Representative, JAMIE LAASS; JAMIE LAASS, Individually; JAMIE LAASS, As Parent and Next Friend of S.L., Plaintiffs,
v.
LAKESIDE MARINA, INC., Defendant

For Estate of David Paul McFarlin, by Its Personal Representative Jamie Laass, Jamie Laass, Individually, Jamie Laass, as parent and next friend of SL, Plaintiffs: Stanley E Munger, Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne, Sioux City, IA.

For Lakeside Marina, Inc., Defendant: David L Phipps, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stephen E Doohen, Whitfield & Eddy, PLC, Des Moines, IA.

OPINION

Page 892

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARK W. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

B. Procedural Background

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standards

B. Does Lakeside Have A Duty To Warn Boaters?

III. CONCLUSION

This case arises from a terrible boating tragedy. On May 31, 2010, plaintiff Jamie Laass was riding with her two children, ten-year old David Paul McFarlin and S.L., in a boat operating on Storm Lake when the boat struck a submerged dredge pipe causing the boat's motor to flip up into the boat with the propeller still running. The motor, including the spinning prop, struck David, causing his death. The issue that confronts me here is whether the defendant marina, from which the boat was launched, owed a duty to warn plaintiffs about the dredging operations on Storm Lake.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

I set out only those facts, disputed and undisputed, sufficient to put in context the parties' arguments concerning the defendants' motion for summary judgment and resistance to it. At least for the purposes of summary judgment, the facts recited here are undisputed. I will discuss additional factual allegations, and the extent to which they are or are not disputed or material, if necessary, in my legal analysis.

Defendant Lakeside Marina, Inc. (" Lakeside" ) is a privately owned Iowa

Page 893

corporation doing business in Buena Vista County, Iowa. Jim Davis and his wife, Mary Jo Davis (collectively, " the Davises" ), are Lakeside's owners and managers. The Davises do not own the premises on which Lakeside is located, but lease the property from the City of Lakeside, Iowa (" the City" ). On March 5, 1998, the City and Lakeside entered into a lease agreement under which the City leased lakefront property to Lakeside for 25 years (" the Lease" ).

The Lease provides, in pertinent part, that:

3. TENANT agrees that during the terms of this lease, that they will use and occupy the leased premises for lawful purposes, but primarily for the operation of a boat marina. TENANT is not restricted only to the operation of the demised premises as a boat marina, provided that the additional, lawful business purposes bear some logical and reasonable relationship to the recreational use of the lake. TENANT also covenants and agrees that boat marina services shall be available to the public a minimum from Memorial Day through Labor Day of each year.
4. TENANT covenants and agrees to maintain the demised premises in a reasonably clean and presentable condition, to pick up debris, and to maintain all buildings and other structures in a serviceable, safe and presentable condition.

The Lease at ¶ ¶ 3-4; Plaintiffs' App. at 66. The Lease further provides that:

9. TENANT will protect, indemnify and save harmless the landlord from and against any and all loss, costs, damage and expenses including attorney fees and expenses occasioned by or arising out of, any accident or other occurrence causing or inflicting injury and/or damage to any person or property, happening or done, in, upon or about the leased premises or due directly or indirectly to the tenancy, use or occupancy thereof or any part thereof by the TENANT or any person claiming to act under or at the direction of the TENANT.

The Lease at ¶ 9; Plaintiffs' App. at 67-68. The Lease also contains the following provision:

11. TENANT further covenants and agrees that it will, at its own expense, procure and maintain casualty and liability insurance in a responsible company or companies authorized to do business in the state of Iowa with coverages to include the docks and appurtenant structures ascending into or abutting Storm Lake (the lake not the city), in amounts not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) for any one injured and one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) for any one accident (occurrence) and with limits not less than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) for property damage protecting the CITY against such claims, damages, costs and ...

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