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September 2004 Vol. 19, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Only in California

from the September, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the summer of 2000, Renee Dirkx signed up for scuba lessons at a Sport Chalet store in Southern California. She was scheduled for a pool session, but said her back was fatigued, so her instructor, William Manrow apparently volunteered to perform a few manipulations on her back or, as Dirkx testified, he painfully cracked it several times.

In November, she felt a pop in her back that was diagnosed as a disk extrusion and she had surgery. The following year she filed suit against Manrow and Sports Chalet, claiming Manrow manipulations had caused her back injury. The jury ruled in her favor, but the case was appealed.

Manrow argued that, as any good instructor, he was only performing his duty of care by manipulating her back. The court said scuba instructors should not be manipulating the backs of their students.

He argued that his back manipulation was well within the course and scope of his employment with Sport Chalet. That made no sense to the court.

He then claimed protection under the PADI liability release she signed. (Yes, the same type of release we divers sign that absolves a dive operation of any liability, even if they are negligent). The court decided that the liability release did not relate to chiropractic manipulations or stretching exercises performed outside the scuba class ... and Manrows arguments regarding the applicability of the release were irrelevant.

Dirkx was awarded $80,000 in economic damages, but in reading the case, we have no doubt that legal fees were far greater.

(California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California. DIRKX v MANROW, No. G031639. Super.Ct.No. 01CC08728).

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