In every state, pool owners, whether at a home, private country club, or in a public environment, could face liability if someone using the pool drowns. Although the most responsible thing for hotels to do is have locked fencing around the pool perimeter, just because there is nothing in place does not automatically make the property owner liable for the death of a child who drowns.
For hotels, owners must follow “premises liability rules,” which in the case of a drowning would apply should the family file a lawsuit. What that rule means is that the court relies on a specific set of laws to determine if the hotel has any liability and if so, hot much. Keep in mind that these rules vary to some degree on a state-by-state basis.
Overall, there are three types of entrants, including trespassers, licensees, and invitees. The type of entrant, as well as the protection provided by the hotel for its guests that use the pool come into play in the event of a lawsuit. For hotels, most entrants fall into the “invitee” category. Because of that, owners must take reasonable steps to maintain and repair the pool to prevent injury to any guests. “Licensees” typically relate to residential pools and for “trespassers,” usually a hotel has no legal liability.
Based on the scenario of a child’s drowning, a court may or may not find a hotel owner legally liable. For instance, say there were slippery spots around the pool, but the owner did not post warning signs. If the child slipped and fell into the pool, causing him or her to drown, more than likely, the family would win a lawsuit.
Although fencing around a hotel pool is not mandatory, the owner should at a minimum provide emergency safety equipment, including life preservers. It is also essential to perform a regular check of the diving board, ladders, drains, and other features of the pool to ensure they are not in disrepair.
Just as with fencing, a hotel owner is not required by law to have a lifeguard on duty. However, owners should have signs posted advising guests of that, as well as other things like “no running around the pool,” “no diving in the shallow end,” “inexperienced children should always wear a flotation device,” “children require adult supervision at all times,” and so on.
To avoid legal liability, hotel owners need to take appropriate precautions. Again, they should have emergency safety equipment on hand, appropriate signs posted, and preferably, a locked fence around the pool’s perimeter. The more precautions a hotel owner takes and the more notice given to guests, the easier it is to fight a lawsuit should a child drown in the pool.
The bottom line is that as sad and horrific a drowning case is, especially when it involves a child, if an accident occurs at a hotel, the owner is not always legally liable. Ultimately, parents, grandparents, or other experienced adults should always be with children while at the pool. At the same time, hotel owners should do everything they can to set rules and post them in several visible areas around the pool.
If you had a child drown in a hotel pool or you own a hotel and have a family suing you in a drowning case, it is critical to hire a qualified attorney.