Is a Property Owner, Homeowner’s Association, Amusement Park, or Other Entity Liable When a Child Drowns in a Pond, Retention Pond, or Lake?
In Florida, children are at risk for drowning related injuries and death in most every community. There are lakes, canals, retention ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water in virtually every community throughout the State of Florida. It is impractical and costs prohibitive to fence and post signs in and around every body of water in Florida. While it is unrealistic to fence all of these areas, there still may be liability for a property owner, homeowner's association, business, theme park, amusement park, or other entity when a child dies if there is a lack of warning signs and / or fencing around the body of water.
As noted in Longmore v. Saga Bay Property Owners Association, 868 So.2d 1268 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A. 2004), "there is no liability for a child's drowning in a body of water, natural or artificial, unless there is some unusual danger not generally existing in similar bodies of water or the water contains a dangerous condition constituting a trap." The Third District Court of Appeal in the Longmore case affirmed the dismissal of wrongful case filed by the parents of child who drowned in the lake owned, controlled, and / or maintained by the property association. The Court in Longmore did cite some cases or examples in which a body of water or an area would be considered a trap as follows:
- Starling v. Saha, 451 So.2d 516 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1984) - Child drowned when the child was swimming in a pond and got caught by an intake hose of a drainage pump that had been left operating without supervision.
- Bichsel v. Blumhost, 429 S.W.2d 301 (Mo. Ct. App. 1968) - Child drowned after falling into a well that had an opening large enough for the child to fal into the well area.
- Allen v. William P. McDonald Corp., 42 So.2d 706 (Fla. 1949) - Child drowned in deep water and drop off caused by dredging. Child was attracted to the area near the body of water by large sand piles.
When a child drowns, there are often many questions, issues, and challenges faced by the parents. Florida law does provide for a cause of action depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the drowning incident. When a child is under the supervision of a school, day care center, or camp, there is a duty of supervision that is required especially when the activities involve swimming or the activities involve a location at or near a body of water.
The book titled - The ABCs of Child Injury - Legal Rights of the Injured Child - What Every Parent Should Know - has chapters on Swimming and Water Park Related Injuries, Medical Care and Treatment, Damages and Compensation, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.