Liability For Swimming Pool Accidents

Nationwide, children under 14 constitute an alarming percentage of the ten drowning victims per day; many of these events occur at private backyard swimming pools or hotel pools. Some of these tragedies occur at busy pool parties and other large events when the owner has not made adequate preparations to supervise all the guests. Other times, parents turn their heads for just a few moments, and in that time, a child falls into an open or semi-open pool. It is also not unusual for a neighborhood child to wander into an unsecured yard and play in an unsupervised pool.

In all these situations, the landowner owes a duty of care to prevent swimming pool drownings, and the outcome in these cases largely depends on the relationship between landowner and victim as well as any remedial actions the landowner undertook.

Landowner Responsibility

Invited guests are invitees. The same label arguably applies to guests who are invited by a non-owner and to all other social guests. Regarding invitees, the owner has a duty to make the premises reasonably safe by regularly inspecting the area and ensuring that it is free from dangerous defects.

Guests who are on the land without the owner’s permission, such as party crashers, are trespassers. Generally, an owner has almost no duty of care in these situations, but there are some exceptions that loom large in many swimming pool drowning cases.

  • Attractive Nuisance: Since their young minds simply cannot conceive of the danger, many children play around swimming pools, construction sites, busy roadways, and other hazardous locations. If the owner knows that children are likely to play there, the owner is liable for damages that these young victims sustain.
  • Frequent Trespasser: If the owner has reason to believe that a trespasser will be on the premises, such as a neighbor who routinely “helps himself” to the pool facilities, the owner is usually liable for damages.

These damages normally include compensation for both economic losses, including medical bills, and noneconomic losses, like emotional distress.

Proving Fault

To establish liability, the plaintiff must show that, by a preponderance of the evidence, the owner either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, such as an open swimming pool. In these cases, posted signs like “No Lifeguard On Duty” may not be enough to shield the owner from liability, even if the victim is an adult who could read and understand the sign.

Sometimes, there is direct evidence of knowledge; for example, an owner may replace a broken fence lock with an ordinary latch. Knowledge can also be established by circumstantial evidence, which is ordinarily the amount of time the defect existed. If the pool fence lock had been broken for several months, it is reasonable for the jury to conclude that the owner should have known about the defect and addressed the situation.

Landowners have a duty to keep their guests safe. For a free consultation with an aggressive Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffhoss Devall. Home and hospital visits are available.