Indoor Drowning Accidents at Health and Fitness Centers
Texas weather is well-known for its unpredictability and the recent periods of unusually cold weather changes has led to an upswing in business at gyms and fitness centers that offer indoor swimming pools for their clients. Sadly, an apparent drowning accident has claimed the life of a 72-year-old Fort Bend County (TX) man at an indoor swimming pool operated by the 24 Hour Fitness location in the Bella Terra shopping center just to the south of the Cinco Ranch community. The purpose of today’s post is not to criticize 24 Hour Fitness but rather to review the legal issues that have come into play in similar accidents.
According to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office (FBCSO), at about 6:45 Monday evening first responders were summoned to the fitness center by the business’ employees after the as-yet unidentified man was found unresponsive in the 24 Hour Fitness indoor “lap pool.” Despite the efforts of both the employees and professional Fire Department / EMS personnel, the man was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to a local hospital. FBCSO Major Chad Norvell said that although the victim appeared to have become entangled in lane-divider ropes that are routinely in use at the pool, a preliminary investigation does not suggest that foul play was involved.
As stated above, it is not the purpose of this post to suggest that the operators of the 24 Hour Fitness location were at fault in any way in this tragic loss. In fact, the employees appear to have performed heroic efforts at reviving the victim and to have fully cooperated in the law enforcement investigation into the circumstances of the victim’s death. Rather, and using this accident as an example, we will discuss the legal issues that often arise after such accidents.
The role of waivers and releases
A business that offers its clients the use of a swimming pool for recreational or therapeutic use has a legal duty to prevent injury to others. Under American civil law a business owner, or even a private homeowner, must undertake every reasonable measure to insure that a visitor does not suffer an injury. This includes measures to prevent “reasonably foreseeable” events that are beyond his or her immediate control. Should the business or home owner fail to do so, they may be the subject of a civil lawsuit.
In some cases a business may claim that if an accident victim signed a “waiver” or “release” in which the victim acknowledged the danger of injury and, further, to absolve the business of any future liability, then the business cannot be sued. This argument has been rejected by practically every civil court in the nation on the grounds that an individual cannot voluntarily waive a “fundamental right” that is protected by civil law.
Health and fitness business owners should take all appropriate measures to insure the safety of their clients
Our “health and wellness” culture stresses that regular exercise is a proven component of a healthy lifestyle. This has led to something of a “fitness craze” in all age groups, but particularly among those 60 years of age and older. Unfortunately, this is also the age group with the highest incidence of known or suspected cardiovascular disease.
Health and fitness businesses routinely use interviews and questionnaires to identify those at the greater risk of conditions that could lead to a medical crises such as heart attack or stroke. The business operations also tend to monitor those in high risk groups more closely. If it can be shown that a business owner failed to identify a high risk client, for whatever reason, that business may be held liable for later medical events that occur while the client is on the business’ premises.
Health and fitness centers should monitor their clients to insure client safety
Once a fitness center has accepted a client, that center must supervise the client’s physical activity and his or her use of its facilities. In those centers that offer swimming-related activities, that center should have at least one staff member who is trained in the latest technology regarding water safety and drowning prevention. At a minimum, a facility should have a certified lifeguard on duty while its pool is open to the membership or there should be at least video cameras that allow remote monitoring of the pool area. If such technology is not in use at all times, the facility could expose itself to an allegation of negligence.
Drowning accidents should be reviewed by a drowning accident lawyer
In this post we have seen that every business owner must take all reasonable measures to protect the safety and health of visitors to his or her place of business. Should this not be the case, and an injury or death occurs, the business may be open to civil litigation alleging negligence as a factor in a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you have lost a family member to an indoor pool drowning accident, you should arrange a consultation with an experienced drowning accident lawyer to review the facts surrounding your loss and to determine if you should file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Due to the potential complexity of these cases, retaining the services of a drowning accident attorney is a necessary step in assuring that you will receive adequate compensation for your loss.