Lesson 7: It is Critical to Investigate the Background Leading up to the Injury
The below lesson is the seventh of 16 lessons that are included in Attorney Charles Boyk’s new book, I’ve Stood In Your Shoes, explaining his personal experience with child accidents. You can find the previous lessons in the blog section of our website.
The pool where Josh was injured was opened in the 1960s, and the current owners at the time of Josh’s injury bought it in the 1980s. During that time there had been no significant modifications done.
My wife had signed the family up for the membership, and the only paperwork that she completed was a “membership application” and there were no legal disclaimers or documentation regarding rules or regulations. We were never informed that the family would be using the pool “at our own risk.”
- The pool’s manager gave several safety warnings and suggestions regarding the diving board which the pool owners disregarded.
During depositions we learned that the pool manager, hired to oversee the day-to-day operations of the pool, had believed that changes were necessary in the pool area. He had suggested to the owners in the spring of 2006 that there were safety issues with the three meter board that could result in insurance costs. The pool owner’s response was that the diving board was “not costing the club very much money” in regards of insurance.
We also learned that another safety related accident had occurred on the diving board. In 2009 a seven-year-old child fell from the ladder of the three meter diving board and injured his head on the concrete deck. The day after this incident, the manager told the owners that they needed to remove the three meter board or reinstate a rule that the pool used to have in which only children ten years of age and older could use the diving board. The pool owners agreed to reinstate the rule, but then only days later they told the lifeguards to stop enforcing it.
The manager even recommended covering the concrete deck with protective padding to cushion a child in the event that they would fall from the diving board. They ended up installing a small amount of padding under the ladder, but it obviously wouldn’t help a diver that would fall from where Josh did.
This all shows that while the manager shared suggestions for safety with the owners, they would instead “fix things as they happen.”
- The diving board was in violation of the Ohio Administrative Code and many other safety standards
The photos of the diving board after Josh fell clearly showed that divers were exposed to a significant risk of a fall onto the concrete in the unguarded area. It was in violation of the Ohio Administrative Code and many other safety standards.
- The pool owners failed to be aware of industry safety standards concerning the pool which they operated for profit
The pool owners did not keep up with the codes and rules for public swimming pools. They failed to keep current in the industry and they never brought outside consultants in to help. The owners simply relied on the health department inspections to let them know if there were any violations or changes in swimming pool industry standards. There was a lack of pro-active approach which was very upsetting for me and my family.
- At the time of his fall, Josh was not violating any rules
My wife dropped Josh off at the pool on August 9, 2010. That afternoon he climbed the diving board and while at the top, he looked down to ask his brother what type of dive he should do. He then walked a few steps back to prepare for his dive, and at that time, he took an odd step in the precise one foot four inch area of the board where there were no guardrails. Josh then fell sideways off of the right side of the three meter dive. He hit his head on the unpadded concrete.
The lifeguard closest to where Josh fell said that Josh’s behavior was completely normal, letting us know that the fall wasn’t due to something he had done wrong. There were many things that made me upset at this time. The first thing that upset me is that if the owners had never discontinued the ten and over age limit, Josh wouldn’t have even been on the board. Also, if the guardrails were up to code, he would not have fallen, and if there was padding surrounding the entire deck like the manager suggested, Josh would not have been so severely injured.
During the deposition I came to find out that the safety inspections that the pool owners relied on were also a joke. The inspectors didn’t understand the law, with one even saying he never went on the diving board due to the fact that he was scared! I couldn’t believe how far off the pool was from meeting the guidelines.
Lesson to be learned: Investigating the background leading up to you or your loved one’s injury can be absolutely critical.
Through the extensive investigation we did with the pool’s history, we were able to prove our case successfully and reach a settlement. It is important to look into the history of the factors of the accident and what was done to prevent accidents from happened.
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