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Swimming Pool Fences, Gates, Alarms, and Liability

Swimming Pool Fences, Gates, Alarms, and Liability

Having a pool alarm is a good idea, but alarms don’t relieve the homeowner of the duty to protect others from accidental drowning

There are many types of pool alarm systems available. These systems include pool gate alarms to alert a homeowner whenever a gate is opened after an alarm has been activated and alarms that detect motion in the pool water. The latter alarms are primarily marketed to residential pool owners whose families include preschool-age children. In this post we’ll take a look at swimming pool alarms and the potential liability issues that can arise if a homeowner places too much reliability on such technology.

Potential liability risk areas in home swimming pools

Home swimming pools probably expose the homeowner to more liability risk than any other structure. This is easily demonstrated by the fact that adding pool liability coverage to a typical home insurance policy can easily add several hundred dollars to a yearly insurance premium.

While it is true that each year thousands of homeowners will enjoy their swimming pools without an accident there are also homeowners who, because of their carelessness, find themselves trying to explain how a child drowned in a backyard swimming pool. It is also true that in many of these accidents the homeowner will find that their homeowner policy, even with additional pool insurance, will not cover a claim if the homeowner was negligent in maintaining a safe pool environment.

Areas for potential liability that are often overlooked include:

  • Failure to comply with local swimming pool regulations
  • Damaged fences around pools and/or defective gates
  • Defective or nonworking alarms

Failure to comply with local swimming pool regulations

Many states and municipalities are now requiring pool and pool gate alarm systems to be included in all new single family pool constructions as well as in upgrades to existing pools. In addition, there are guidelines that are issued by various federal agencies that, although not laws, could be cited by a drowning accident attorney as evidence of what a “reasonable and prudent” homeowner should have done in order to reduce the risk of an accidental drowning injury.

Damaged fences around pools and/or defective gates

Fences, gates, and other “barriers to entry” are the most economical safety measures a homeowner can take in order to reduce the chance that a drowning accident may occur. Needless to say, barriers are not effective unless properly maintained. If a barrier to entry is later shown to have been defective due to poor maintenance, the homeowner can be held liable in a drowning accident lawsuit.

Defective or nonworking alarms

As is the case with barriers to entry, pool alarms that are meant to detect the presence of someone in the pool’s water are only effective if properly installed. Since most such alarms are purchased online, most homeowners usually scan whatever documentation they find enclosed in the box and then place the alarm in the pool without making sure that it is actually working. As the following example illustrates, this can be a very serious (if not deadly) mistake.

Example: Recalled Product

In September, 2016, SmartPool LLC announced a voluntary recall of about 1.500 units of their PE12 PoolEye product due to a reversed position of the product’s On-Off switch, which could cause a pool owner to think that the alarm had been activated when it was, in fact, inactive. Obviously, this defect could lead to the PoolEye’s failure to detect a child who had fallen into a pool where the product had been installed.

Potential liability issues with recalled safety products

Recalls are only effective if the manufacturer knows how to contact the purchaser of its products. If the purchaser fails to register his or her alarm online or by mailing in the warranty registration card, it is unlikely that the manufacturer would be able to notify the alarm user of a potentially serious defective product issue. An accidental drowning attorney could use the failure to register the product as an example of the pool owner’s negligence.

In the example presented above, the product is defective simply because it cannot be safely used for its intended purpose: preventing an accidental drowning. A homeowner relying on the alarm would still liable for any injuries under the doctrines of Premises Liability and Attractive Nuisance. Additionally, the manufacturer would also be liable for having sold a defective product.

Summary

As we have seen, even though a homeowner has complied with all local regulations and has installed every practical safety measure, the fact that a drowning accident occurred is an indication that at least one safety measure failed. In practically every case, such failures are the result of negligence on the part of the homeowner in either properly maintaining a barrier to entry or to insuring that alarm systems were functioning properly.

If you or a family member were injured in a swimming pool drowning accident, you should speak with an accidental drowning lawyer to review your possible options for filing a claim against the pool owner. Only an accidental drowning lawyer will have the intimate knowledge of local and state pool safety laws and the legal principles of responsibility and liability that will be necessary to pursue a negligence claim against those responsible for a drowning accident.

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