A District Court of Appeals has reversed a ruling that had previously dismissed Ameren Missouri from a wrongful death lawsuit for the electrocution of two children at Lake of the Ozarks in July 2012. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals found that Ameren Missouri did not have immunity under Missouri's Recreational Use Act (RUA) from liability for the dock on its lake due to the permit fees that the utility company charges for docks, according to a report from Lake News Online.
On July 4, 2012, Alexandra Anderson, 14, and Brayden Anderson, 8, died while swimming around their family's dock when it released electricity from devices on the dock into the water. The suit, filed by the children's mother, alleges that Ameren's negligence caused the deaths. An investigation indicated an improperly grounded electrical circuit to the dock, which was not ground-fault protected, was a contributing factor in their deaths.
Lake News Online reported that in both her appeal and original petition, Anderson argued that Ameren's dock permit fee acted as a "use fee" for lake residents to "use and enjoy" the lake through their docks. The suit further stated that Ameren had the authority to revoke dock permits for any dock it deemed unsafe through enforcement fees and that the company should have known that adequate protection required ground fault interrupt devices to be placed at or above the seawall of each dock in order to prevent the hazards of electrical shock or electrocution in the event of a short circuit or other electrical fault.
The Western District judges agreed that the dock permit and enforcement fees were user fees for the construction, use and enjoyment of their family dock and were sufficient to remove Ameren's immunity from liability under the RUA.