Regional Athlete Wins Olympic Gold

Houston native Simone Manuel now shares the world record for the fastest time in the 100-meter freestyle, and she is also the first black American athlete to win a gold medal in any swimming or diving event.

Her victory roughly coincides with the release of a university study which concludes that 70 percent of black children cannot swim. Furthermore, black children between ages 11 and 12 suffer from an accidental swimming pool drowning rate that’s ten times greater than white children of a similar age. To explain the discrepancy, some scholars blame the residual effects of racial segregation. Many municipal pools were not legally integrated until the 1960s or 1970s, and informal discrimination remained at some locations for decades afterwards. As a result, swimming was not part of the black experience for many children who grew up in the latter part of the 20th century, and some parents may pass their preferences onto their children.

In September 2010, six black teenagers drowned in a single incident that took place on the Red River near Shreveport.

Swimming Pool Drowning

Children at public swimming places are normally either licensees or invitees; the difference usually hinges on whether or not there is an admission fee. Either way, the landowner has a duty of care.

  • Licensees: Even if the victim’s presence does not create an economic or noneconomic benefit for the landowner, the landowner still has a duty to ensure that the property is free from latent (non-obvious) defects, like a chemical imbalance in the water or rescue equipment that’s stored too far away from the water.
  • Invitees: If there is a benefit, the landowner has a duty to make the premises reasonably safe, and also a duty to inspect the premises.

Damages in a landowner liability case, like a swimming pool drowning, normally include compensation for both economic losses, including lost wages, and noneconomic losses, such as loss of enjoyment in life. Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

Standard of Care

Louisiana law basically sets the standard of care for both water quality and pool safety in swimming pool drowning cases. In terms of water quality, the state Department of Health requires the water pH to be between 7.2 and 8.2 if children use the facility. Furthermore, the chlorine or similar disinfectant content must be 0.4 parts per million, because anything less invites bacteria growth and anything more may cause a serious allergic reaction.

As for pool safety, there must be an un-climbable fence or other barrier all the way around the pool which is at least four feet high, as well as a self-locking and latching gate with a mechanism that’s located on the inside of the fence.

Violation of the standard of care is not conclusive proof of negligence, but it is definitely strong evidence of neglect.

Swimming pool owners have an affirmative duty to make the water and grounds safe. For a free consultation with a zealous personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. Home and hospital visits are available.