When an injury occurs in a swimming pool, any number of possible legal claims may exist to redress those injuries. Depending on the circumstances, the manufacturer of the pool, the manufacturer of any defective products used in the pool, or the owner of the pool—whether a private or public owner—may be liable for injuries suffered. A brief overview of exactly what the law requires to compensate injuries and information about these legal claims is discussed below.
Defective Pool Or Safety DevicesOne common source of injuries involving swimming pools comes from defects with the pool, pool toys, or safety devices used in the water. Kansas law recognizes that a product can be defective in three ways. First, the product may be defectively manufactured. These cases involve a deviation from the intended design of the product, making it unsafe and causing injury. An example would be a pool filter that failed to receive a sufficiently thick covering over electrical components; the filter was not designed to provide contact between the water and electricity, but the mistake in manufacturing the product resulted in this happening and establishes liability for injuries the product causes. Second, the product can be defectively designed. In these cases, the product is more dangerous than a reasonable consumer would expect, rendering its design ineffective. An example would be a life vest that does not counterbalance to ensure the users face is pointing up and out of the water. By failing to design the life vest in this way, the product is defective because it will not provide protection to unconscious individuals—something that ordinary consumers would reasonably expect. Third, a product may be defective because of inadequate warnings. A manufacture has a duty to warn of dangers posed by the product. What makes pools especially vulnerable to inadequate warnings is the wide use of pools by children. Manufactures must take this fact into account when deciding how to warn and what to warn of. An example of an inadequate warning would be a shallow pool that has no warning not to dive. Further, the warning would likely require a picture to ensure that children were able to understand and appreciate the warning.
Liability Of Pool’s OwnerA property owner owes a duty of reasonable care to guests. This obligation extends to swimming pools on the property as well. To satisfy this obligation, the property owner must repair or warn of dangerous conditions on the property. For swimming pools, such defects could be uneven slabs of concrete around the pool or a railing that isn’t secured to the ground. The key to establishing liability for these defects is showing that the owner knew or should have known of the defects. Thus, an owner may be liable for dangerous conditions that just transpire, if the likelihood of these conditions is sufficient. For example, a pool owner would be liable for a guest’s slip and fall on wet concrete near the pool, even if the owner did not know of the water that caused the fall being there. This is because it is so foreseeable that water from the pool would be splashed or transferred to the nearby surfaces that the owner should have known of this danger. This is also a good example of an instance where warning may be sufficient. The owner likely can’t keep up with all the water that is splashed out of the pool, so warning patrons of the water is likely enough. The owner may take additional steps, such as ensuring the concrete is textured near the pool, to further reduce the risk of slips.
One obligation the law does not require is a duty to provide assistance. Though this might seem shocking, a pool owner is generally under no obligation to attempt to safe a drowning guest. There are some limited exceptions, such as when the person in danger is the owner’s child or in the case of lifeguards hired to provide emergency assistance to swimmers. However, even absent a duty to rescue a guest in peril, the homeowner would be liable for the drowning if it is the result of injuries caused by the property. This is because property owners are not only liable for the injuries caused by the dangerous condition of the property, but also for all injuries that foreseeable grow from the initial injury. Thus, if a child dives into a shallow pool that lack a warning and is knocked unconscious, the owner would be liable if the child then drowned as a result of being unconscious underwater. The likelihood of this chain of events is foreseeable, meaning liability attaches for the “continuing” injuries.
Liability For Injuries To Trespassers In The PoolGenerally, the only duty a land owner owes to a trespasser is the duty to refrain from willful misconduct directed at the trespasser. However, an exception exists under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. This doctrine applies to “artificial conditions,” meaning some type of improvement upon the land, such as a swimming pool. The artificial condition must be appealing to children and the children, because of their age, cannot appreciate the inherent danger of the condition. The effect of this doctrine is heightening the standard of care for these child trespassers. The property owner will be liable for injuries caused to children trespassers as a result of the dangerous condition, unless the owner takes reasonable steps to prevent trespassing or otherwise mitigate the danger. The most common example is putting up a fence to surround the pool or covering the pool with a tarp that can hold the weight of a child.
When an individual is injured in a swimming pool accident, it can be unclear who is liable for those injuries. Contacting capable and experienced legal counsel is essential to ensure that full compensation for injuries is collected by holding the correct party responsible. The sooner an attorney is contacted, the safer evidence of the occurrence is and the better the chances of recovery are.