Unexplained Swimming Pool Drownings In Brandon
The exact circumstances surrounding the deaths of a 12-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl in a hotel pool may never be known, but the details that are available shed considerable light on important legal issues.
The two children left their hotel room about 2:45 in the afternoon and went to the hotel pool. About 30 minutes later, passersby saw the girl at the bottom of the pool and her brother vertical on the surface, head down, with his arm perched on the pool’s side. The young man was pronounced dead at the scene, and his sister was declared dead at a nearby hospital the next day. Although the hotel pool had a “No Lifeguard On Duty” sign and available safety equipment, it is unclear how noticeable the sign was and how close the equipment was to the pool.
The children’s parents said that while the two victims could tread water, they were not very strong swimmers.
Duty in Swimming Pool Drowning Cases
Since they provide an economic benefit to the owner, hotel guests are invitees. Guests that provide a noneconomic benefit, such as party guests, are invitees as well. Under Florida law, if the negligence victim was an invitee, the owner has a duty to:
- Ensure that the premises are free from both obvious and latent defects,
- Inspect the premises to keep them safe, and
- Protect victims from foreseeable third-party crimes.
A lower duty applies if the victim was an licensee (invited guest and no benefit) or a trespasser (no invitation and no benefit).
In these cases, the attractive nuisance exception sometimes applies, especially where swimming pools are concerned. If the owner knows that children are likely to play on the property, and that the property contains something that could be of substantial danger to children (such as a swimming pool), the children are invitees regardless of invitation or benefit.
Breach of Duty
Chapter 64E of the Health Code covers the required safety equipment at hotel pools and other semi-public pools. At a minimum, all such facilities must have:
- A shepherd’s hook attached to a pole that is at least 16 feet long, and
- An 18-inch ring flotation device that’s attached to a rope that can reach all pool areas.
However, it is not enough to simply have the equipment somewhere near the pool. These instruments must be near the water, and preferably near the deep end of the water, be accessible yet also securely attached to prevent loss or tampering, and have easy-to-follow usage instructions. If the hotel or other property owner did not follow these important guidelines, the equipment might as well not be there at all.
“No Lifeguard On Duty” Signs
Some people believe that a “Swim At Your Own Risk” or other notice completely absolves the owner from liability for unintentional drownings, but that is usually not the case. Instead, such notices raise the possibility of the assumption of the risk defense. There are two basic elements:
- Voluntary Assumption: This question often comes up regarding signed liability waivers. If the waiver is a condition of participation, the waiver is not a voluntary agreement but an illegal take-it-or-leave-it contract of adhesion.
- Known Risk: While older children can usually make the connection between a “NLOD” sign and a drowning risk, younger children or those with limited English proficiency usually cannot make that connection.
The owner must also prominently display this warning, and not bury it on a long list of pool rules that include the hours of operation and so on.
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
The property owner is usually legally responsible for damages in swimming pool drowning cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.