For many, the recent Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end to summer and its particular wealth of recreational activities. Although the weather tends to stay warm (or downright hot!) a bit longer in Northwest Florida, vacationers and even some residents are thinking about closing up their swimming pools. However, our Panama City drowning lawyer knows that this doesn't eliminate the risk of drowning, including in retention or decorative ponds. Pond drowning is a complex area of law, requiring a lawyer familiar with Florida statutory and judge-made law.
WJHG reported on the death of a child in a Pensacola-area pond. During the evening hours of Wednesday August 28, Larry Kruger received a knock on his door on his door from his neighbor's 5-year-old son. The child was looking for help after his younger sister, aged 14 months, drowned in Kruger's goldfish pond.
Authorities report that the children's mother, Jennifer Lynn Eiland, age 31, had begun looking for the toddler after the little girl wandered away from her home. Someone called 911 as Kruger pulled the girl from the pond and the mother and neighbors began applying CPR. Police placed the mother in jail on child neglect charges and put her two other children in the care of the Department of Children and Families. Eiland had been arrested in May on charges of endangering the welfare of a child in Orange Beach, Alabama. The children's father, who works as an offshore journeyman in Louisiana, was not home at the time of the drowning.
Referencing data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the journal Pediatrics, About.com, notes that approximately 1,500 U.S. children drown annually, with toddlers and adolescent males at greatest risk. Overall, infants are most likely to drown in bathtubs, toddlers in pools, and older children in other freshwater locales like rivers or lakes. Despite being more likely to drown in a pool, a number of toddlers do drown in ponds and similar locations. Of the 1,420 fatal child drownings examined, 26% of those ages 1 to 4 died in freshwater lakes and other waterways. For ages 5-9, the rate was 54%, and the rates were 61% and 69% for the 10-14 and 15-19 year old age groups. Males and African-Americans are at greater risk for all forms of downing.
While Florida law requires the owners of swimming pools to erect a fence/barrier for the protection of others, especially children, there is no such barrier law for retention pond or other bodies of water. This does not, however, mean these owners are duty-free. Instead, courts will evaluate non-pool drownings on a case-by-case basis. Relevant factors in these cases include, but are not limited to: whether children have been known to frequent the area; whether similar injuries or deaths have occurred at the site in the past; whether the water is deemed an "attractive nuisance" by Florida law (a place both attractive and with a danger the child is unlikely to appreciate); and whether the owner knows that children frequently visit the location.
Drowning civil cases can be complicated, especially when the location is someplace other than a swimming pool. There may be liability of behalf of the property owner, a group that built or maintains a pond, or a person charged with supervising the child. Families with children who have drowned or suffered harm in a near-drowning in Northwest Florida should promptly call a Panama City child drowning lawyer. Attorney Pittman has the experience and expertise to help such families recover crucial money damages, even when there may be counterarguments about the family's own acts.