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Attorney General's Office Prevails in “Offsets” Suit Appeal

Apr 14, 2020, 15:45 PM by AG Schmitt
The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District today affirmed the trial court’s judgment granting a permanent injunction in the suit filed by the Missouri Attorney General's Office against “The Offsets” in 2018, stopping them from operating the location until safety concerns are addressed.

“Keeping Missourians safe is one of my most important duties and it was crucial for my office to ensure that nobody could be potentially exposed to dangerous conditions at The Offsets until important safety measures are implemented,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “This decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals will likely save lives.” 

Then-Attorney General Hawley filed suit against “The Offsets" and proprietors Rebecca and Gary Henson in June of 2018. On May 24, 2019, Judge Wendy Horn granted the state’s petition for permanent injunction and shut down “The Offsets” until safety measures are implemented. 

Those safety measures include requiring an emergency response plan to be prepared and frequent staff trainings to be held, stipulating specific areas where jumping is allowed and stationing trained lifeguards in those areas, requiring an additional lifeguard to be stationed in a boat in the water to be more readily available to rescue swimmers, requiring all patrons who are jumping into the water to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life vests, and more. 

Today, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Southern Division affirmed the trial court's judgment in a formal opinion, stating that the trial court did not err in concluding that the Hensons’ operation of “The Offsets" constituted a public nuisance, nor did the trial court err in shutting down the location unless and until extensive safety measures are incorporated. 

The opinion states, "In essence, Appellants ask this Court to turn a blind eye to the several deaths of members of the public that have occurred in the course of Appellants’ operation of the Offsets over the last three decades. This we will not do, especially considering the substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s findings and conclusions regarding Appellants’ systematic failures spanning over 30 years to sufficiently warn invited members of the public of inherently dangerous conditions present on the Hensons’ property and to adequately attempt to prevent or prepare for injury caused by those dangerous conditions.”

“The Offsets” is a lead mine turned swimming hole in Southeast Missouri. Since its opening in the early 1980’s, at least 9 people have died from drowning or falling off of the bluffs and countless other injuries have occurred.