Unsupervised Infant Fell Into Pool [sic] With Broken Gate


“Unsupervised Infant Fell Into Pool [sic] With Broken Gate”

SOUTHERN CITY – 2/18/2003: A toddler who suffered brain damage after nearly drowning in her apartment complex's swimming pool was awarded more than $100 million by a [state] jury. [Victim], age 2, was playing hide-and-seek at her family's [city, state] apartment complex when her father left her for five minutes to run into the apartment. She wandered past a broken gate and into the swimming pool. Minutes later, she was discovered unconscious. Her family sued the complex for neither properly safeguarding the pool nor repairing the broken gate, which neighbors had complained about. The defense argued that the teenagers who had vandalized the gate were beyond their control and that the child's father was negligent for allowing a 2-year-old to roam unsupervised. The jury found him 1% negligent.

What we should learn:

(some of the following information was gleaned from published newspaper articles not included above)

  • This incident did not occur at a camp… why the concern?
    • Camps exist in a large legal climate and insurance marketplace.
      • Primary and excess risk bearers have had several years of disastrous results that were preceded by a decade of inadequate results.
      • Runaway verdicts like this are becoming the norm, rather than the exception, and the more of them there are, the easier it is for a judge or jury to justify a large settlement.
    • The standard of care for an apartment is much lower than for a camp… e.g., they are not required to have a lifeguard on duty. Even so, when the father left an unsupervised 2-year-old near a pool that was known to have a broken gate, he was found only 1% negligent. How do you think they would have ruled regarding such a physical deficiency at a camp?
    • The state involved, as well as many others, has “joint and several” liability. What that basically means in a case like this is that even if the father’s negligence was deemed to be much higher, the apartment complex could still owe the entire verdict.
  • Camps must be more vigilant than ever to minimize any risk of loss. With regard to aquatic facilities, make certain that they are properly supervised, diligently guarded, and scrupulously maintained. Do not allow any deferred maintenance or deviation from guarding standards.
  • Reasonable rate and adequate availability of insurance may not be wholly within a camp’s control, but an organization’s failure to adequately address safety issues will almost certainly ensure sizable insurance rate increases and may affect its ability to get insurance at all.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about camp risk management issues.


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