Swimming is pretty much a year-round activity for many of us here in South Florida. Every summer, however, we hear stories from around the country where children, eager to enjoy some much-anticipated warm-weather activity have tragically been killed in swimming pools. On July 26, The New York Times reported the story of a 3-year-old boy who climbed over a locked fence and drowned in the above-ground pool at the daycare center where his mother is employed.
Drowning isn't the only cause of fatal pool accidents. Earlier this summer, we shared with our readers about a 7-year-old boy here in South Florida who died after being electrocuted by a pool light in the family swimming pool. The parents sued several companies in a wrongful death action for not ensuring that the light was properly grounded and bonded.
Pool and hot tub drains have caused injury and death to children and adults alike. According to the website Poolsafely.gov, clothing, hair and limbs can become entrapped in faulty drains or grates. They note that federally-compliant drain covers should not only be installed, but inspected regularly.
A 7-year-old girl who became fatally entrapped in a hot tub drain was the inspiration for the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. The 2007 law requires public pools as well as spas to have federally-compliant drain covers and additional anti-entrapment systems if necessary. "Public" pools and spas include not only those open to the public, but those in multi-family residences and hotels.
That doesn't mean that homeowners can't be held responsible if a child drowns in a backyard pool. According to an article on the website FindLaw.com, a home pool is considered, in legal terms, an "attractive nuisance." This term can be applied to pools, swing sets and any potentially-dangerous feature that is likely to draw children to your property. That means that property owners need to take reasonable precautions, such as non-climbable fences and locked gates, to protect children who may be tempted to take a splash when no one is around.
Obviously, no one should allow children in a pool area unless being watched carefully by an adult who can swim. However, kids will be kids, and tragic accidents can happen in seconds. Property owners, both public and private, can be held legally responsible for an injury or death. However, the key is not to let it happen in the first place.
Source: Poolsafely.gov, "Parents and Families," July 26, 2014