Swimming pool season on the North Shore and throughout Massachusetts is short. Still there are plenty of hot summer days where a dip in the pool is a great way to cool off. If you are hurt or injured while using someone’s swimming pool, you may be entitled to recover for your damages, including medical costs, lost work and pain and suffering.
Massachusetts has laws requiring that swimming pool owners secure their pool with a structurally strong, adequate fence. The fence can be decorative, attractive, basic, fancy, for privacy or protection; but it must close and latch and prevent children and adults from accidentally getting in to the pool area and getting into an accident in the pool. A home owner has a duty to protect friends and family and also a duty to protect strangers and sometimes even trespassers from injury. Swimming pool owners need to have a secure strong fence to protect against accidents. It’s good common sense and it’s the law.
According to the Massachusetts Health and Human Services website:
In 2011, there were 40 unintentional drowning deaths among Massachusetts residents and an additional 148 nonfatal near-drowning cases among Massachusetts residents that required treatment at a Massachusetts acute care hospital.
Drowning was the leading cause of unintentional injury death among Massachusetts children 0-14 years in 2011
It is the homeowner’s duty to protect guests and strangers on their property from any obvious and apparent dangers from a swimming pool. If you visit a home or are on someone else’s property for any lawful reason where there is a swimming pool and injure yourself from the pool, you may have a legal right to seek damages for your injuries from the homeowner.
A landowner “is not relieved from remedying an open and obvious danger where [the landowner] ‘can and should anticipate that the dangerous condition will cause physical harm to the [lawful visitor] notwithstanding its known or obvious danger.” Also, an owner or possessor of land owes a common-law duty of reasonable care to all persons lawfully on the premises. Soederberg v. Concord Greene Condominium Ass’n. This duty includes an obligation to maintain the “property in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.” Mounsey v. Ellard. It also includes an obligation “to warn visitors of any unreasonable dangers of which the landowner is aware or reasonably should be aware.” Davis v. Westwood Group.
In one recent Massachusetts case, Dos Santos v. Coleta, the Court ruled that while the open and obvious doctrine may relieve the landowner of its duty to warn, a landowner nonetheless may be held negligent with respect to injuries resulting from an open and obvious danger where the landowner has created and maintained that danger with the knowledge that lawful entrants would choose to encounter it despite the obvious risk of doing so.
Here the homeowner placed a three foot tall trampoline next to a two foot high inflatable pool, with a ladder from the pool to the trampoline. The pool had printed warnings against jumping into the pool. However, the landowner was aware that people routinely ignored the warnings. Mr. Dos Santos did ignore the warnings and tried a front flip or dive from the trampoline into the pool. He struck his head on the bottom of the pool, resulting in severe injuries, causing him to become a quadriplegic. Dos Santos brought suit against the homeowners, claiming they were negligent in setting up the trampoline next to the pool and in failing to warn him of the danger in using the trampoline/pool arrangement. The Court decided that a landowner is not ‘relieved from remedying open and obvious dangers where he [or she] can or should anticipate that the dangerous condition will cause physical harm notwithstanding its known or obvious danger. Dos Santos was compensated for his injuries.
Swimming is a great summer activity and the perfect way to cool off. But swimming pool accidents happen. If you are injured in a swimming pool accident speak with an experienced injury lawyer to make sure that your rights are fully protected.