My Child Drowned: Was it a Wrongful Death? April 25, 2017.

When a child drowns, it is always a tragedy. However, it may not always be considered an accident. Courts might hold the property owners liable for the drowning, according to the standard of care that the owners should have reasonably provided. Since pools are considered part of the property, courts typically follow the rules of premises liability laws in order to determine liability.

How Premises Liability Laws Impact Drowning Cases

Premises liability describes laws that pertain to injuries, deaths, and other losses that occur on a specific piece of property. The law may distinguish between three types of people on the property. These are licensees, invitees, and trespassers. People who have been allowed to use the pool are considered either licensees or invitees. Trespassers, of course, are people who do not have permission to enter the property and premises liability laws typically do not extend to trespassers.

Premises Liability for Trespassers, Invitees, and Licensees

Laws typically say that property owners owe more responsibility to licensees and invitees, but might not owe the same standard of care to trespassers.

For instance:

  • Property owners should warn invitees and licensees, or people who are supposed to be on the property, about potential hazards that aren’t obvious. They should also keep the pool and equipment maintained.
  • While the owners should not intentionally try to kill or injure trespassers, it’s not as reasonable to expect property owners to be responsible for people who aren’t even supposed to be on the property in the first place.
  • However, one common exception to the rule about trespassers is if the trespasser is a child.

Therefore, the property owner could be guilty of wrongful death if he or she doesn’t take steps to limit access to a pool for young children. Fences and locked gates are two examples of precautions that homeowners might take to prevent children from wandering into an unattended swimming pool. This is particularly true of children who are too young to understand the danger or be expected to always follow instructions.

Wrongful Death Cases for Pool Guests

For people who have a right or invitation to use the pool, the law is usually different. If children use a hotel pool, for example, a drowning might be ruled a wrongful death if the plaintiffs can prove negligence. For instance, hotel pools might never have lifeguards; however, they might have rules posted that children need to have an adult attending them. Typically, parents or other guardians are considered responsible, but this isn’t always true.

If the child drowned because a ladder or drain was not repaired or up to code, the property owner might be held liable. If an unsupervised child made his or her way to the pool and drowned, the plaintiff’s liability might not be so clear. However, many hotels do install locks that require hotel keys to open in order to keep small children out unless their parents are with them.

Attorneys for Wrongful Deaths in Drowning Cases

At the Mellino Law Firm, LLC., our attorneys have over three decades of experience pursing wrongful death cases. If your child drowned because of a pool owner’s negligence, you should speak with us as soon as possible. Call today at (440) 333-3800 for a free consultation.