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Donnalley v. Sterling

618 S.E.2d 639, 274 Ga. App. 683 (2005)

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Donnalley v. Sterling

Georgia Court of Appeals

618 S.E.2d 639, 274 Ga. App. 683 (2005)

Facts

Mike Donnalley (defendant) was the head football coach at Wheeler High School in the Cobb County School District (school district) (defendant). The football team rented space at a YMCA camping site for a three-day training camp. The rental contract identified which party, the YMCA or the football team, was responsible for certain matters during the team’s stay. In this section, the football team agreed to be responsible for having qualified personnel patrol the site’s waterfront areas, and the YMCA disclaimed any responsibility for activities in the site’s lake. Nowhere in the contract did either party specifically agree to provide any performance or benefits to the football team’s members. During the camp, football team member Daniel Sterling experienced distress while swimming in the lake. The coach who was patrolling the lake was not a certified lifeguard. With difficulty, that coach, Donnalley, and other players finally pulled Sterling to shore. However, by that time, Sterling was not breathing and died two days later. Sterling’s parents and estate (plaintiffs) sued Donnalley and the school district for wrongful death under (1) tort theories and (2) a theory that the football team had breached its contractual duty to Sterling, a third-party beneficiary of the rental contract, by failing to have a qualified lifeguard on duty during water activities. The trial court found that the tort claims were barred by immunity defenses and dismissed them. However, the trial court ruled that Sterling’s parents and estate could pursue their contractual claim that the football team had breached its contractual duty to provide qualified water personnel to protect Sterling. Donnalley and the school district appealed the ruling, arguing that the parents and estate could not pursue the contract claim because Sterling was not an intended third-party beneficiary of the rental contract.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Adams, J.)

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