Earlier this month we wrote about the danger of unguarded, backyard swimming pools and infants. See “Unwatched Swimming Pools: Very, Very Dangerous to Young Children” (7/9/08).
The typical, backyard swimming pool is not the only hazard to young children. The shared pool in an apartment, co-op or condo complex, or hotel, can be equally as deadly.
Again, a great danger is having an unguarded or unwatched pool where children can wander and play without either a life guard or adult supervision. If a pool is outdoors, there should be a fence and gate so as to keep-out children as a private homeowner would. It is not enough to merely post sign with the pool hours. Also, it is not enough to merely post a sign that no one is to enter the pool without a life guard present.
The key is to keep-out children during “off” hours. In an apartment or co-op or condo or hotel with many people under one roof, it is vital to keep-out children before the pool “opens.” A group of restless children visiting a hotel should not be able to sneak into the pool area at 6:00 am.
In the case of an apartment house or hotel, the management and safety of the pool is outside of the hands of either the resident or the hotel guest. Management must take reasonable steps to prevent an infant drowning. Otherwise, the property owner will be responsible.
It is unreasonable for a major resort hotel to have a pool without a life guard. Sometimes a small hotel or motel will not have a life guard due to economics. If a hotel does not have a life guard present and post a “swim at your own risk” sign, then it is imperative that parents be extremely vigilant. This also applies to apartment and condos and co-ops which opt not to hire a life guard.
My firend lives in an apartment house which is a model of how to safely run a pool. The building has an outdoor swimming pool with adjoining recreation areas on the roof. The building management has wisely ruled that no one is allowed on the roof outside of the pool hours. That means that no one is allowed to use any part of the roof except for those hours when a life guard is present. If a tenant wishes to hold a private party at night after closing hours, the tenant must pay for the life guard who will be present throughout the evening. Entry to the roof pool is limited and is controlled by the building personnel through two service elevators which are manned 24/7. Therefore, there are enough deterrent factors to keep-out children during off hours.
Regarding hotels and resorts, parents should not let down their guard because they are on vacation. The reasonable standard of care for a hotel in the Dominican Republic may not be the same as New York, New Jersey, or California. A well regarded resort or hotel might not have a life guard. In other words, it might be the norm of foreign resorts not to have life guards or fencing. The same applies to pools on cruise ships. Do not expect a cruise ship to have life guards. The job falls on the parents to be protective and watchful over their children.
If you live in a co-op or condominium, then as a shareholder you have some voice in the management of the property. A prudent management will listen to safety concerns. However, sometimes management or the shareholders will not implement safety practices for a number of reasons. For example, the cost factor on maintainence, is a big factor. Many co-ops and condos will not have a life quard so that maintainence is not increased. Sometimes, the owners and management will not want to construct a fence and gate due to both cost and aesthetic concerns. In that event the parent must be vigilant.
In the horrible event of an infant drowning, early retention of an attorney and investigation at the site will be the key determinate as to whether there is a viable case of negligence.
Mark E. Seitleman, 7/12/08, www.seitelman.com