Homeowners in Sonoma and Napa counties use their pools not only for their own personal enjoyment, but also when they host summer get-togethers with friends and families. And neighborhood children tempted by the sparkling waters might try to swim in a homeowner’s pool without the homeowner’s knowledge.
With all these people swimming in their private pool, homeowners must always be aware of the drowning risks swimming in a pool presents. In addition to pool safety issues, homeowners should also be aware of the liability they might face if someone drowns in their private pool.
Homeowners have a duty of care toward people swimming in their pool. If they violate their duty of care towards a swimmer, and the swimmer drowns, the homeowner could be exposed to a lawsuit.
Homeowners can meet their duty of care by taking certain safety precautions. Homeowners must ensure their pool pumps and other equipment are in good operating condition. They generally need to fence in their pools, with fences meeting state or local height requirements.
Homeowners should supervise children and others who might not be strong swimmers that are using their pool. They should not let too many people use their pool at one time. They should not let people swim in their pool who have been drinking.
What about trespassers?
Sometimes a trespasser, especially a child, will swim in a homeowner’s pool without their knowledge. Do homeowners owe a duty of care to child trespassers?
In some states, homeowners owe a duty of care to child trespassers who use their pool. This is because a pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” to a child who cannot appreciate its dangers.
California no longer has attractive nuisance laws. But homeowners still have a duty of care to keep their pool in a reasonably safe condition for anyone who uses it.
Ultimately, a homeowner’s liability should someone drown in their pool centers on whether the homeowner met their duty of care to keep swimmers safe and whether the drowning accident was a foreseeable consequence of the breach of the duty of care. Homeowners may have a lesser duty of care towards trespassers compared to guests, but they still have a duty of care towards those who use their pool.