Swimming-Pool-Liability-150x150Throughout the year, Florida has the distinction of being a state in which warm weather allows for swimming even through the Fall and Winter months. When a child dies as a result of a drowning incident, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the family and community.  According to statistics collated the Florida Department of Children and Families, 82 drowned in 2017 with another 56 who have drowned in 2018 as of this time. Children and adults, who happened to be strong swimmers, can still encounter trouble while swimming.  As such, it is important to have supervision and assistance nearby any time that a child or adult enters a pool. This is especially true for young children, toddlers, and infants who may lack these strong swimming skills or safety awareness.
We live in a world of constant and ongoing distractions in the form of our smart phones and tablets. In a way, our smart phones are making us a bit dumber and less aware of our surroundings. This often is the case when an adult is supposedly supervising a child.  With eyes fixated on the small screen of an iPhone or iPad, a small child may encounter trouble or danger in the form of any body of water including swimming pools, lakes, oceans, rivers, hot tubs, and even bath tubs.
A swimming pool related legal action requires the showing of four elements as follows:

Water-Safety-150x150Florida is a state that allows for swimming virtually year round.  There are swimming pools in just about every neighborhood from small backyard pools to community swimming pools.  While swimming is a great activity for children, it also poses a real risk for children, especially toddlers and smaller children who lack strong swimming, survival skills, and judgment.  Certainly, a child is at risk when there is no adult supervision in the area of the water way / swimming pool.  Even when adults are present, there are also risks to children if their the “supervision” is distracted by conversation, mobile phone use, a television, or just simple inattention.  When a child dies or is seriously injured from a drowning incident, there is a ripple effect through the family and the community.

A recent event that occurred in Jacksonville, Florida exemplifies this. According to a news report, a toddler  drowned in a backyard pool when family members briefly lost track of him. Events like these occur all too frequently. According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of over 700 children under age fourteen die annually from drowning. The Center for Disease Control also indicates that, for every child that dies from drowning, five others go to the hospital for almost drowning. Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in number of child deaths from drowning in 2017, as revealed by the Miami Herald. Thus, staying vigilant with children around water is especially pertinent in Florida.  See Water Injuries – Fact Sheet- Center for Disease Control. 

Most drowning and near drowning incidents are completely preventable.  Water safety / swimming precautions can include: installation of fencing around water, designation of an adult to provide constant supervision of children in water or around water, pool alarm systems for doors leading out to water access, adornment of lifejackets when children play near or in the water, and swim lessons at a young age. CPR training may also save a child’s life in the event that a child drowns.

Handgun-150x150Unfortunately and tragically, communities across the State of Florida and the nation continue to grapple with the challenges and aftermath of mass shootings.  A mass shooting took place at the Jacksonville Landing.  The Jacksonville Landing is well known to local residents, visitors, and the attendees of the annual University of Florida / University of Georgia Football Game. The Jacksonville Landing sits on the waterfront and has been the central focal point for festivals, concerts, political rallies, and other events.  Now, the Jacksonville Landing will now be known and associated with a mass shooting that took place

The Jacksonville Landing was the host of the Madden 19 Video Game Tournament.  It was reported that three people died including the shooter and nine people were injured in the shooting.  David Katz, age 24, was reported as the shooter by USA Today and other media outlets.  His gun was described as a large caliber handgun with a laser sight attachment.

The attendees and guests at this event were simply gathering together to play video games.  Unlike Call to Duty and other games, there are not even any guns or weapons in Madden Football.  Regardless, innocent people were killed and injured as a result of the careless and senseless acts of the gunman.

Amusement-Park-Ride-150x150In the State of Florida and other States, amusement parks and theme parks provide fun and excitement in the form of roller coaster rides, carousel rides, ferris wheel rides, and rides.  Some amusement park rides go quite slow and involve little force, friction, or height.  However, any mechanical ride can pose a threat to riders if there is a malfunction, design defect, or operation error.  This is especially the case with roller coasters that involve great heights, sharp turns, and twists and turns at high speeds.  A recent incident that took place in Daytona Beach, Florida at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.  It was reported that two riders fell from the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster ride.  There were a total of nine riders injured as a result of the incident.  For more information regarding this incident, see Roller Coast Ride Accident – Daytona Beach – Personal Injuries and History of Ride Inspections by the State of Florida

With most legal cases involving a personal injury, there are four elements of the case to establish as follows:

1 – Duty;

Window-Blinds-150x150

There is a common danger in homes, day care centers, schools, and other facilities.  The common danger is in the form of window blinds.  There are injury risks associated with window blind cords including those related to bruises, cuts, scrapes, and most significantly strangulation.  While it is well known and widely reported that window blind cords represent a significant risk to small children, reports of injuries continue to take place because safety precautions were not taken by the applicable child care provider.

It is estimated that approximately 17,000 children under the age of six years old were admitted to a hospital between the time period of 1990 and 2015 due to window blind related personal injuries.  The same report estimated that one child per month died as a result of window blind cord strangulation during this time period.  Toddlers and small children have poor safety awareness.  As such, what appears to be fun to a toddler can actually pose a significant danger.  The report on window blind injuries gathered together data from emergency rooms.  As such, there are most likely more injuries that took place than were part of this study.

While there have been proposals and recommendations by the United States Product Safety Commission as to standards to make cords covered and / or unreachable by children, these recommendations have not been approved or placed into law as of yet.

City-Park-Liability-150x150In the State of Florida, many people are under the mistaken belief that a government entity is immune from civil liability when there is a personal injury or wrongful death that takes place on property maintained, controlled, and / or owned by a government entity.   If a government entity or an agent / employee of a government entity is negligent or careless, a civil case or claim can be brought against the government entity to seek compensation for the personal injuries, wrongful death, and related damages.  It should be noted that civil cases or claims against a government entity in the State of Florida are handled or treated differently than cases against private individuals, privately owned businesses, and publicly held businesses or corporations like Wal-Mart, Disney World, and other entities.

When an adult or child is injured as a result of the negligence of a government entity, the rules, policies, notices, and restrictions set forth in Section 728.28, Florida Statutes apply.   This statute is known as the “Sovereign Immunity” statute.  The name is a bit misleading. The word “Sovereign” refers to a government entity.  The word “Immunity” typically refers to a shield against liability or responsibility.  As such, the term “Sovereign Immunity” is a bit misleading.  The truth is that a government entity in the State of Florida can and should be held legally liable and financially responsible for injuries that result from careless or negligent acts.  The statute does restrict the amount that can be recovered to $200,000 per incident or $300,000 per incident.  An injury victim or the family of the injury victim can collect more than the amount limited by statute but only by the passage of a Claims Bill before the Florida legislature and ultimately signed off by the Governor.  Claims Bills are very difficult to pursue and get passed.  As such, the majority of claims against government entities in the State of Florida result in compensation at or below the caps as set forth in the Florida Statute on point.

In Jacksonville, Florida, it was reported that a 3 year old boy – Amari Harley – died as a result of a drowning in a septic tank area as part of a City of Jacksonville park – Bruce Park.  The medical technical cause of death was reported as asphyxia due to inhaling septic tank contents.  While there have been a number of news reports on the tragic death of this young child, there have been no reports as to how this small child was able to get into or fall into the septic tank area.  City officials and other landowners should be well aware of the presence of children in a park area and the dangers of septic tank areas like the ones present at Bruce Park.

Swing-Set-150x150Swing sets are commonly placed, seen, and maintained on playgrounds.  When a child is injured during the use of swings on a playground, there may be liability or responsibilities on the part off the city, school, day care center, and / or owner of the property where the swing set is located.  There should be a distinction made between a person, business, or other entity who / that is the supervisor of children and a person, business, or other entity who / that is the owner of the property where the playground / swing set is located.
Supervision of Children
When a child is under the care and supervision of a school, day care center, summer camp, or other program, it is important that reasonable and necessary care be provided to the child.  Playground equipment and play should be age appropriate. Furthermore, children should be supervised in a reasonably careful manner.  Rough or dangerous play should be stopped immediately.  Swings are a known hazard for those playing around the swings and for those children on the swings.  As such, child care providers and supervisors should be on the look out for dangerous play that may result in personal injuries including injuries related to strangulation during playground use.  If a child while using swings is twisting and turning around, a child care provider should immediately step in as this is not the proper or safe use of the swing set.  If the dangerous play continues, the child care provider should promptly remove the child from the swing set area.

Law-Book-150x150
A death that shook a family, neighborhood, and community is still under investigation according to a recent news report. Amari Harley, age 3, died on October 22 after getting stuck in a city septic tank system at a City of Jacksonville (Duval County) park.  The death certificate listed “accidental drowning” as the cause of death.  This means, that following the autopsy, it was determined that the drowning was the cause of the death rather than some other cause like a stroke, heart attack, or some kind of unknown or previously undiagnosed congenital medical condition.  While the cause of death has been established, the preventability and safety measures surrounding this incident are still under investigation.
This raises the question as to whether the City of Jacksonville should be held liable for the death of this child.  In other words, is the City of Jacksonville legally liable for this “accidental drowning”?  When evaluating a legal case involving a personal injury, research is often conducted by an attorney in form of a review of allocable laws, statutes, ordinances, and case law.  It is important that there is legal precedence or authority to pursue a case or claim on behalf of the injured child and the family.  There are essentially four elements associated with a negligence case or claim as follows:
1 – Duty;

Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;

Breach of Duty;

Halloween-150x150

Halloween is a holiday mostly celebrated by children and for children. There are also adult parties and adult participation; however, the core part of Halloween is the journey through the neighborhood engaged in the tradition of visiting houses and collecting candy just by virtue of the statement “Trick or Treat”.  Let’s face it, there is a certain paradise for children on Halloween which is in the form of “Free Candy”.   Dressing home and pretending to be a favorite Disney character or super hero is pretty cool as well.  For most children, Halloween evening / night is just about the best night of the year.  For others unfortunately, Halloween night can be the time in which a child suffers a serious personal injury or even dies due to the negligence of others.

Some tragic events that take place during Halloween can be avoided.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.  Some are fairly basic and well know.  Nevertheless, it is important to keep these tips in mind and actually follow them to make Halloween night as safe as possible:

Don’t Trick or Treat at All.  Find alternatives to the door-to-door trick or treat journey.  Have a party.  Have the neighbors gather together in one place for a candy distribution.  While it does seem counter intuitive to discourage traditional trick or treat activities, having children remain in one general area or home can avoid many accidents or incidents from taking place.