Articles Posted in Swimming Pool Accidents

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In a recent Texas appellate case, a city appealed the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction in a lawsuit involving an injured child. The case arose when a 13-year-old was swimming in the city’s public pool. A 17-year-old was on duty as a lifeguard. The pool had rules prohibiting horseplay, and the pool manager was aware of these rules.

While taking a break from his job, the lifeguard was double bouncing swimmers from the diving board, which meant that two people would stand on the diving board, and one would bounce while the other dove. The pool manager may have been aware of this practice but didn’t object unless the people involved were small children. On the day in question, she didn’t try to stop the lifeguard from double bouncing. When the 13-year-old joined in, he was hurt on his turn. He and the dividing board collided, causing his patella to snap, breaking a small bone, and dislocating his knee. He needed surgery and had to convalesce for six months.

The City argued that it had sovereign immunity from suit except as set forth under the Tort Claims Act. The law allows for a governmental unit to be liable for an injury legally caused by a wrongful act or omission of an employee acting within his scope of employment. There can also be governmental liability for misuse by employees of tangible personal property. However, landowner liability is limited when the landowner lets his land be used for recreation under Texas Civ. Practice & Remedies Code section 75.002.

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Recently the appellate court heard Henry et al v. City of Angleton, an accelerated appeal from the trial court granting the city defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction. The case arose when a mother sued the city after her 11-year-old died from the complications of nearly drowning in a swimming pool that the city owned. The swimming pool was at a recreation center that consisted of a fitness facility, gym, and meeting rooms, in addition to the pool.

The pool was both an indoor and outdoor pool and had slides and a lazy river. The mother had taken her four kids to the pool to swim. The 11-year-old was seen lying face down in the water at some point. Lifeguards pulled her out and tried to resuscitate her. She died seven days later from complications of nearly drowning. The video showed her face-down for seven minutes before the lifeguard acted.

The mother sued on behalf of her daughter’s estate, as next friend of her three other children, and as herself individually to recover wrongful death survival and bystander damages. She argued that the City’s operation of the swimming pool was a “proprietary function” because it included amusement features like slides and the lazy river. She also sued for negligence, gross negligence, and premises defect. Continue reading →

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The start of summer means more time spent in and around swimming pools and lakes, which can mean more accidents and drowning deaths, especially for children.

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), as of June 11, 2013 there were 27 reported child-drowning deaths in Texas in 2013. The latest reported incident occurred June 15, 2013, when a four-year old drowned in the pool at an apartment building in Lewisville, Texas. Unfortunately, this was the second such incident in less than a week — a three-year old drowned in North Texas on June 13th in a pool at a private residence. On a positive note, the number of drowning deaths in Texas may be down from last year. The DFPS reported a total 74 drowning deaths last year, with a combined 30 deaths in June and July. Notably, 37 of these fatalities occurred in swimming pools, and children ages 2 and younger accounted for over 50% of the total fatalities.

Some safety tips from DFPS to prevent fatalities similar to the ones described above include:

1. Never leave children alone around water — this includes swimming pools, wading pools, drainage ditches, creeks, ponds, and lakes.

2. Keep an eye on children who are swimming or playing in water. They need an adult or certified lifeguard watching them at all times.

3. Make sure access to swimming pools is secure. Use fences (self-closing and latching), and water surface alarms.

4. Store water toys away from the water when not in use so they don’t attract small children.

5. Don’t assume young children will use good judgment and caution around water.

In addition, if you are a business or property owner, it is important to determine whether or not your pool or spa is considered “public” or “semi-public” pursuant to the San Antonio City Code. All public and semi-public swimming pools and spas are regulated by the City of San Antonio. According to the City Code, a semi-public swimming pool is: (1) Any privately owned swimming pool or spa that is open to the general public for a fee, or (2) any swimming or wading pool, spa or sauna, serving a private club, motel, hotel, apartment building, school, child care facility, recreational or physical fitness facility, institution, home owner’s association, or other similar activity or structure, the use of which is limited to members, residents, students, or clients and their guests. All public and semi-public swimming pools or spas located within the City of San Antonio must have a pool license.

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