Do you remember a couple years ago (2015ish) when some guy drowned in actress Demi Moore's pool? The incident caught the media's attention and made me think of the pool safety and liability issues that my clients deal with.
As a lawyer with many clients who own real estate from California to Louisiana where pools are common, I thought it would be both helpful & fun (yes, lawyers can be fun) to address the issues of pool liability and safety.
Let's start this fun discussion with pools. Do you own a pool? In most states, you're responsible for keeping your pool "reasonably safe".
What happened at Demo Moore's pool is something that could happen to anyone, including you. Someone else (her assistant) held a party at her house while she was away and a man ended up drowning in the pool at this party.
Since Demi’s assistant is an employee, that means that Demi is also liable for her employee’s actions. So her assistant’s failure to keep the pool safe during the party becomes a liability issue for Demi, which naturally, sucks for Demi.
Let's go over a few tips so that you don't end up like Demi Moore, who at the time of this writing, is still in court regarding that unfortunate incident 2 years ago.
There are two ways you can be liable for accidents that occur at your pool. First, if you violate a local law (city or state) that relates to pool safety you can be held solely liable. In most instances, there are laws that say what safety precautions should be present at your home or property. These requirements of these laws vary by state and include things fences, pool covers, and rails.
If your property and pool do not comply with these requirements and an accident occurs at your pool, you can be held “strictly” liable for the accident that occurs on your property. Just like Demi Moore.
Make sure you understand the laws in your city and state so that you are in compliance. Please don't end up in a situation like Demi Moore!
If you are aware of a dangerous pool condition and don't fix it, you are liable for any accidents. In the case of Demi Moore, the argument is that the pool was unsafe because it was not properly supervised while there was a party where alcohol was served.
You should know whether or not alcohol is being served around a pool that you own. And if alcohol is being served around your pool, you better make sure the pool is properly supervised. Hire some kid to be your life guard, and make sure he or she doesn't drink alcohol. (That's right, lifeguards are liabilities too!)
Are you a landlord?
Let's say you own an apartment complex with a pool. As a landlord, you have a duty to your tenants to guarantee that the pool includes the necessary safety features required by law. You can also be liable for damages and accidents to the guests of your tenants. And sometimes, even trespassers can hold you liable for damages incurred from the pool while trespassing. If you haven't realized it yet by now, owning a pool or a property with a pool is potentially a high liability factor.
Here’s a short summary of things you can do to limit your liability from pool accidents.
This document will include the following:
Nobody enjoys going through a lawsuit, they can drag on for years and cost you big time. Hopefully this article helps all the landlords and real estate investors out there understand the implications of having a pool on their property. While pools can add a lot of value to a home, they do increase liability. Make sure you're in compliance with local/state laws so that someone can't slip, fall, and then sue you for everything! Don't end up like Demi Moore. When in doubt about the legal status of your pool, contact a competent attorney.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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