The public pool can be a fun place to kick back and relax during the hot summer months, but it can also be a place where many injuries from slips, trips and falls can occur due to the nature of being near water. When it comes to an injury sustained at a public pool, it helps to know your rights as a visitor to the pool. It also helps to know the duty that public pools have to keep its patrons safe.
A public pool is considered to be part of a piece of property, specifically public property, and as such, premises liability covers any injuries that occur while at the pool. Essentially “premises liability” involves laws that determine who is liable when something on that property, whether it be a condition, hazard or simply the use of the property, causes an injury. The rules depend on the type of “entrant” the person is on that property. The category of entrant the individual is determines the type of care the property owner owes to that person. The most common three categories include trespasser, licensee and invitee.
Most individuals who are swimming at a public pool are there as “invitees,” meaning they have been invited and are there legally. As invitees, pool owners are under a duty to reasonably maintain and repair conditions of the pool so that invitees are not injured. Social guests using a pool on private property are considered “licensees,” and these private pool owners are similarly under a duty to warn licensees of dangers not obvious to the average individual. Pool owners do not owe a duty to warn someone trespassing on their property of hazards; they only must not cause intentional harm to the trespasser, such as setting a trap to harm anyone trespassing on property. The major exception to the trespasser rule involves child trespassers. Under the doctrine of attractive nuisance, pool owners are under an obligation to keep a pool safe from children who do not quite understand the dangers of drowning. Installing fences to close of the pool is one typical measure to protect the property owner from this issue.
What Liability Does the Owner Have?
In normal rules of negligence and premises liability, the property owner owes a duty of care to people invited to the property to take reasonable steps to protect them from harm, and if there are hazards or dangerous conditions on the property, the owner has a duty to warn guests of these hazards. If the owner fails to follow this duty of care and someone is injured because of the owner’s lack of reasonable care, it is said that the owner breached his or her duty. Once a breach is proven, the injured party has to show that the breach of duty caused his or her injury. Lastly, he or she will need to prove the amount of damages he or she is entitled to because of this injury.
One duty a public property owner has to invitees on the property is to properly maintain the pool. Pools require a certain standard of upkeep to ensure that they are safe. Stairs and ladders must be properly installed, cracks around the pool repaired, and proper lighting must also be installed. The pool owner also has a duty to routinely inspect the pool and the surrounding property to ensure that it is safe and clear from hazards.
In addition to proper maintenance, the pool owner must also make sure that certain safety measures are available. Flotation devices must be present in the event someone needs one to prevent drowning. If the water is too shallow to allow for diving, the owner must warn swimmers of the dangers of diving into shallow water with proper signage. The pool needs to be surrounded by fencing, as well, to keep children from coming into the water without supervision. Routine inspections and staying on top of what is required legally of public pool owners will ensure that the owner has all of the needed safety measures required.
Defective Pool Products
Sometimes dangers in the pool are not so obvious, such as a defective pump or drain cover. However, if a part of the pool such as the drain cover is broken, and a swimmer’s foot gets caught in the drain cover, resulting in a drowning, the pool owner will be held liable for not being aware of this danger, especially if a recall or notice of repair has been issued, and the owner failed to repair the part of the pool. Alternatively, if the owner would not have reason to know this danger existed, the manufacturer of the product could be liable if this defect should have been known.
Intentional or Negligent Behavior
Normal premises liability rules do not apply if the person at the pool was injured based on his or her own behavior that was intentional or negligent. For instance, if the person sees a sign warning of diving in shallow water but still dives despite this sign, injuries would not be the fault of the pool owner.
Many of us will spend more time in and around water this summer. While it is important to enjoy these moments, water safety is just as important. If you or a loved one has suffered a water-related injury or wrongful death, contact an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney immediately. The law firm of Michael T. Gibson, P.A. is dedicated to serving you and protecting your rights regarding personal injury or wrongful death due to water-related accidents. We can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. Contact our office to discuss your legal options in greater detail.