Swimming Pool Safety And Legal Liability In Minnesota
Each year, about fifty Minnesotans accidentally drown. Most of these incidents occur in swimming pools.
Tragically, the fatality statistics only tell part of the story. Hundreds of other people are seriously hurt in drowning incidents, because just a few minutes without oxygen is sufficient to cause permanent injury. Many other victims become violently ill. Some owners use too many harsh chemicals which are harmful, or even fatal, in some amounts. Other owners do not use enough cleaning agents, and bacteria thrive in the warm pool water.
If the owner’s maintenance practices fell below the standard of care, the Minneapolis pool owner is usually liable for the victim’s damages.
Public Pools in Minnesota
Section 144.1222 of the Minnesota Statutes lists the requirements for hotel, apartment, community, and other public pools in the state. There are a number of technical requirements. The rules govern things like pool drainage, chemicals in the water, and the location and nature of lifesaving equipment. Government inspectors are usually quite vigilant, so these technical requirements are normally not an issue.
But there are still some substantial liability questions. Most of these issues stem from the warning signs that are usually around these pools, such as “No Lifeguard On Duty” or “Swim At Your Own Risk.” Some people believe that if the owner posted such a sign, they cannot obtain compensation for their injuries.
Signs like these do not give immunity to the Minneapolis pool owner. However, they do make it easier for the owner to establish the assumption of the risk defense in court. This doctrine applies if the victim:
- Voluntarily assumes
- A known risk.
Perhaps due to age or national origin, many people have limited English skills. They either cannot read such signs or cannot understand what they mean. The assumption of risk is clearly not “voluntary” in such cases.
Depending on the type of injury, the risk may be unknown as well. Most people connect swimming and drowning. But the same cannot be said of a violent illness, perhaps brought on by an allergic reaction to high chemical content.
Private Pools in Minneapolis
Unless they are carefully supervised and thoroughly secured, backyard pools are extremely dangerous. So, Minnesota negligence law addresses both these areas.
Landowners owe a duty of care to all invitees. These are individuals who respond to the owner’s express or implied invitation and whose presence benefits the landowner in some way. Owners usually owe no duty of care to trespassers (no permission and no benefit).
The attractive nuisance rule is one of the most prominent exceptions. This doctrine usually applies if the Minnesota landowner:
- Created or maintained a potential hazard, such as a swimming pool,
- Knew or should have known the hazard would attract children, and
- Knew or should have known the hazard could seriously harm children.
If the attractive nuisance rule applies, pool owners have the same duty of care to child trespassers as they do to invited guests.
Most cities have their own rules regarding the pool’s physical requirements. In Minneapolis, some important pool rules include:
- A white or light-colored interior surface,
- Handholds along the entire water line,
- A deck that’s at least 48” wide,
- A fence that’s at least 4’ high, and
- A self-latching gate with a mechanism that operates from the pool side.
If the pool was not up to code, the owner knew or should have known about the deficiency, and the defect substantially caused the victim’s damages, the owner may be liable as a matter of law.
Work With a Tenacious Attorney
Because swimming pools are potentially dangerous, strict safety rules apply. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Minnesota, contact the Gunther Law Office. We routinely handle matters in Hennepin County and nearby jurisdictions.