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Authorities Suspect Alcohol And Drugs Contributed To Swimming Pool Drowning

A teenage girl was discovered face-down near the bottom of a friend’s backyard swimming pool, and toxicology tests confirmed that she was extremely intoxicated immediately prior to her death.

According to Lake County Sheriff’s deputies, a Lake Mack-area couple arrived home to find their 15-year-old daughter passed out in her room, and the girl’s 16-year-old friend in the family’s swimming pool. Both girls were transported to a nearby hospital; the 15-year-old is expected to recover, but the 16-year-old was declared dead shortly after she arrived. A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the teens “had spent the day drinking vodka and smoking marijuana,” apparently while at the house.

The victim’s grandmother rhetorically asked “Who would leave two teenage girls alone in the house where there is alcohol readily available or weed is readily available?”

Premises Liability

In car crash cases, most all drivers have a duty of reasonable care towards other people on the road, and some courts have adopted this blanket standard in premises liability matters, like slip-and-falls, swimming pool drownings, and injuries due to inadequate security. But most jurisdictions continue to use the common law approach that adjusts the duty depending on the type of victim.

  • Trespasser: If the victim was on the premises without the landowner’s permission, the landowner must refrain from intentionally harming the trespasser. A broader duty may apply to certain classes of victims, like child trespassers (attractive nuisance doctrine) and foreseeable trespassers (frequent trespasser doctrine). A swimming pool is most certainly an “attractive nuisance.”
  • Invitee: If the victim has permission to be on the land but the victim’s presence does not benefit the landowner in any way, the owner has a duty to warn about latent defects, like loose floorboards or missing steps on a staircase.
  • Licensee: If the victim’s presence benefitted the landowner in any way, either socially or financially, the owner has an affirmative duty to keep the premises reasonably safe.

As to the dangerous condition itself, such as a wet spot on the floor, the plaintiff can introduce circumstantial evidence to prove that the defendant should have known about the defect, and therefore should have remedied it.

Landowner Alcohol Liability

It is a violation of Section 562.11 of the Florida statutes to “to sell, give, serve, or permit to be served alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age or to permit a person under 21 years of age to consume such beverages on the licensed premises.” In the above story, it appears that the homeowners indirectly provided alcohol to the minor girls, because the owners negligently made alcohol available to them. Arguably, negligent provision constitutes permission to serve under the statute.

If the owners did violate the minor alcohol provision law, such a violation is negligence per se in civil court. In most cases, the violation of a statute not only creates the presumption of negligence, but also creates the presumption of reckless or wanton conduct, which raises the possibility of punitive damages.

Reach Out to Aggressive Lawyers

Landowners must make sure their guests are reasonably safe. For a free consultation with a Port St. Lucie attorney who stands up for victims, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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