Today we are going to be talking about pool safety and drowning or near drowning accidents. My guest is attorney Gregg Anderson and he’s going to talk with us about this topic. So Gregg, thanks for being here today.
Gregg Anderson: Thanks for having me.
Dei Lynam: Gregg, what is a “near drowning accident” and is that a legal term?
Gregg Anderson: It’s not really a legal term. It’s more of a medical term I would think. “Near drowning” just simply means someone who has been underwater but does not die from the experience. So if someone’s been underwater for several minutes, and the brain’s been deprived of oxygen, they are likely to have some form of brain damage as a result. So a near drowning situation is just a case where someone is underwater, is pulled from the water, resuscitated and does not die.
Dei Lynam: Who’s liable when the unthinkable happens and a child drowns in a neighbour’s pool?
Gregg Anderson: Those are among the most tragic cases we see. In Texas, many cities, Houston for instance has an ordinance that requires the pool owner to take certain precautions such as in Houston, you have to have a fence that’s at least four feet high, has to have a self-latching gate to protect that very situation of a small child wandering into the pool when no one is watching the child.
Dei Lynam: Okay, now we’ve talked about liability, can you explain the concept of liability for us?
Gregg Anderson: Sure, “liability” just refers to a situation where someone owes a duty to someone else; breaches that duty and someone is hurt as a result. So for instance in the setting of a drowning situation, in Houston the city ordinance sets up a duty by the pool owner to have certain fencing requirements met. If those requirements aren’t met, we then have a breach of that duty and if a child is injured or killed then obviously there are damages resulting from that breach which sets up liability.
Dei Lynam: What if a child or adult drowns at a public beach while swimming in the ocean, is there any liability there?
Gregg Anderson: Well, there can be. Any time we’re talking about the public sector, that’s very different. In Texas there are laws in place that restrict or provide immunity to governmental entities in certain circumstances. We additionally have something called the recreational use statute that can further restrict liability of responsibility so it wouldn’t be true to say that there is no liability on a part of a city, county, or state governmental entity in a situation like that. But it is far, far more restricted than with a private individual, landowner, or company.
Dei Lynam: What about drowning accidents in public pools that are not government owned?
Gregg Anderson: That would be more similar to an individual home-owner. There are requirements of restricting pool access in public but non-governmental owned situations that would require a hotel owner or whatever organization or company it is to take certain precautions. For instance if a lifeguard was supplied, and the lifeguard is negligent in how he or she is going about his or her business the company or hotel or whatever it might be could certainly be responsible for that conduct.
Dei Lynam: Gregg, this is a timely topic and I thank you for being with us today.
Gregg Anderson: Thank you!
Dei Lynam: Until next time, this is Dei Lynam for Texas Law TV.
For more information about drowning accidents visit our website at https://www.terrybryant.com/swimming-pool-accidents/.