Engelhardt v. City of New BerlinAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment to the City of New Berlin and the New Berlin Parks and Recreation Department (collectively, New Berlin) on this negligence action, holding that the known danger exception to governmental immunity applied in this case.
Eight-year-old Lily Engelhardt drowned in a swimming pool at an aquatic center in a field trip organized and run by the New Berlin Parks and Recreation Department. While the “playground coordinator” was informed the Lily could not swim, Lily drowned while staff were changing in the locker rooms. After Lily’s parents filed suit, New Berlin moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was immune from suit pursuant to the governmental immunity statute, Wis. Stat. 893.80(4). The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and granted New Berlin’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the danger to which Lily was exposed at the pool was compelling and self-evident, and therefore, the staff had a ministerial duty to give Lily a swim test before allowing her near the pool; and (2) because the staff did not perform this ministerial duty, New Berlin was not entitled to the defense of governmental immunity.