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updated: 1/22/2014 5:49 AM

Drowned man's family wants Geneva, park district held liable

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  • Randy Suchy

      Randy Suchy

 
 

Relatives of a Naperville man who drowned trying to save his girlfriend's son from the Geneva dam along the Fox River have appealed their lawsuit, saying the city and the park district did have control over that area of the river and should be held liable for Randy Suchy's death.

Suchy, 59, died Aug. 5, 2011, trying to save his girlfriend's 12-year-old from the boil created by the dam, which is just north of State Street (Route 38) in downtown Geneva.

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A judge last year dismissed the lawsuit, saying the city and park district had immunity under Illinois law and the boil presented an "open and obvious" danger to Suchy and others in the area.

David Wise, attorney for Suchy's relatives, argued Tuesday before an appellate court panel in Elgin that the boil represented a "hidden danger."

"If we're talking about open and obvious, who created this hazard?" Wise said.

Wise also pointed to a section of state law that maintains a park district has control over waterways next to park district land for a distance of 300 feet. The city and park district also control access to the river, and built stairs and a walkway leading to the dam area, Wise said.

"(The park district) invites people there to see (the dam) and fish. That's why these accidents will continue to happen," he said.

Amanda Hillman, an attorney for the city, argued that neither the city nor the park district had control over that area of the river by the dam. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has jurisdiction over that area and Geneva can't alter the river's course, remove the dam, nor fill the body of water -- like in the case of a quarry.

"The city (of Geneva) has no more control over that body of water than the city of Chicago has over Lake Michigan," Hillman said. Edward Dutton, attorney for the Geneva Park District, said the ability to supervise the river does not equate to control over it.

The appellate panel took the matter under advisement and did not give a time frame for its decision.

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