Backyard swimming pools can be a great source of family fun and enjoyment throughout the summer. However, anyone who owns a pool must also understand that backyard pools can be a source of danger, especially if there are children around.
Every year in the United States, many people are injured or killed in pool-related incidents. Property owners who have backyard pools must understand the concept of the attractive nuisance doctrine. If a pool is not properly secured or maintained, a property owner may be liable for an injury that happens on their premises.
New Jersey law states that if someone is invited on a property and is injured due to a negligent, dangerous condition of the property, then the property owner is responsible for those injuries. This is a general statement of premise liability law that covers both commercial properties and private properties, such as homes.
What if the injured person is uninvited and is trespassing on the property? In the case of trespassers, generally speaking, the property owner is not responsible for any injuries suffered by the trespasser due to a dangerous condition of or on the property. The attractive nuisance doctrine, however, is one of the exceptions to the trespasser rule.
Attractive nuisance cases usually involve children. The doctrine provides that if there is a dangerous condition on the property that attracts children to trespass and they become injured, then the property owner may still be responsible for the injuries. Pools may be subject to the attractive nuisance doctrine. If a child has a slip and fall accident in that pool area, the property owner may be held liable in certain circumstances.
What are Potential Attractive Nuisance Conditions?
The attractive nuisance doctrine requires property owners to protect against potential children trespassers who might get injured due to some type of dangerous condition on the property. Here are some examples of potential attractive nuisance conditions that property owners have to make safe for potential children trespassers:
- Swimming pools or fountains
- Wells or tunnels
- Stairs or paths
- Construction sites
- Construction equipment, such as backhoes or bulldozers
- Riding machines, such as lawnmowers, scooters, and motorcycles
- Potentially dangerous animals, such a horses or dogs
- Scaffolding or ladders
- Ponds or lakes
When is the Property Owner Responsible?
The attractive nuisance doctrine will not cover every instance where a trespassing child is injured on someone’s property. There are a certain number of elements that must be met first in order to hold the property owner responsible under this doctrine of law:
- The property owner has to reasonably know of the potential for children to trespass on their property.
- The property owner either knows that the attractive condition on the property exists or reasonably should know that it exists and that the attractive condition of the property is potentially a risk to children.
- Due to the child’s young age, the child does not know or cannot comprehend the danger of the attractive condition of or on the property.
- The cost of the property owner to protect against trespassing children and making the dangerous condition inaccessible is small compared to the potential risk to the trespassing child.
- The property owner failed to implement reasonable mitigating factors that would lessen the danger and/or protect the trespassing child.
Why can Property Owners be Held Liable for Swimming Pool Slip and Falls?
When applying the above factors to the case of swimming pools, it is easy to understand how property owners with swimming pools could be responsible for the injury or death of a trespassing child. Most children love to swim and be around water. The owner of the property should reasonably understand that swimming pools could be dangerous, especially for young, unsupervised children walking around the pool.
Often, younger children cannot swim or cannot swim well or do not understand how deep a pool may be. The cost of protecting against a young child wandering onto the property and in the pool area is minimal compared to the potential danger to the child.
The cost of installing a fence around the pool with locked gates is minimal. Most, if not all, municipalities require fencing around in-ground pools under their building codes. Also, with above-ground pools, it would be a safe and easy practice for pool owners to remove or block off the ladder to get into the pool.
How Should Property Owners Maintain Their Premises?
Here are some steps that owners of swimming pools can do to protect children who might wander onto their property:
- Install fencing around the pool.
- Install gates in the fencing that can lock and cannot easily be opened by a child.
- If permanent fencing is not an option, use temporary fencing that has child alarm mechanisms that will sound an alarm if the fencing is moved or breached.
- Install warning signs, especially warnings against diving in shallow water.
- Install depth of pool markings.
- For above-ground pools, remove the ladder that allows someone to climb into the pool.
- For above-ground pools that have an attached deck, make sure that a gate that is able to be locked is installed on the stairs to the deck.
- Install an alarm on a house door that leads to the pool area.
- Use floating pool alarms that will sound off if someone falls or jumps into the pool.
- Use underwater alarms if someone falls into the pool and goes underwater.
- Remove all of the toys in and around a pool so they do not attract young children.
Mount Laurel Slip and Fall Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Help Families Whose Children Have Been Injured in Swimming Pool Slip and Falls
Having a child injured in a swimming pool slip and fall accident can be a very traumatic experience for a family. The Mount Laurel slip and fall lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman can answer all of your questions and help you get through this difficult time. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-2345 for a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.