Last Update: 1/14/18
Here in Florida, it seems like every hotel in the Miami – Palm Beach – Fort Lauderdale area has a nice swimming pool for its guests to enjoy, even if the pool is only steps away from swimming in the Atlantic Ocean itself. Hotels and pools just go together here in South Florida, and most people expect to have a swimming pool to enjoy during their hotel stay.
However, what happens if you or your child are hurt in an accident at that hotel swimming pool? In these cases, Florida premises liability law determines whether or not an injured party can seek damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) from the hotel. The answer will depend on the injured parties ability to overcome several legal hurdles.
Two Big Hurdles in a Florida Hotel Pool Accident Claim
Accident claims for injuries sustained at a hotel pool can be complicated. Victims of hotel accidents, including swimming pool accidents, will need to prove their case with admissible evidence (from witnesses, video surveillance, documentary evidence, etc.) showing the hotel’s behavior (negligence) caused their injury. This can be difficult to do because a lot of South Florida victims live in other states, or countries, and hotels do not voluntarily share evidence with injury victims.
In this type of personal injury case, the accident victim will have the burden of proving that the hotel knew there was a dangerous condition at the hotel swimming pool that caused the accident (actual knowledge) or that the hotel reasonably should have known about it (constructive knowledge). In Florida, pursuant to Florida Statute 769.0755, the injured person has the job of providing evidence of the hotel’s knowledge, as unfair as that may seem (particularly to out of state claimants).
Another hurdle for a victim of a hotel pool accident: is proving their legal status as an “invitee” under Florida premises liability law. Those who are invited by the hotel to enjoy the pool are considered “business invitees” and deserve the hotel’s highest duty of care. Those that are not invited by the hotel, people who are there without the hotel’s knowledge or approval, are “trespassers” and are not protected as much under Florida law. The hotel does not owe the trespasser as much duty of care as it does the hotel guest. (See – What Happens Whe Someone Is Injured at a Business or Commercial Location?: Florida Premises Liability Law)
1. Drowning in the Hotel Pool
Consider the case of Pedone v. Fountainebleau Corp., where a young man died in the pool of the famed Miami hotel, the Fountainebleau. The tragedy began on a hot June afternoon where two high school buddies walked from the public beach to the Fountainebleau Hotel pool, where one of the boys worked part-time in the hotel kitchen. He knew that kitchen employees were never allowed to use the guest pool at the hotel. Still, both boys snuck into the luxurious hotel pool and enjoyed swimming there for a half-hour or so.
Nervous, the teenager who worked there got out. His friend, Nitto Pedone, had been holding his breath to stay underwater as much as possible to keep from being spotted. He stayed behind. A few minutes later, Nitto was floating face down in the hotel pool and doctors there were unable to resuscitate him. Nitto Pedone died there at the Fountainebleau, and his family sued the hotel for wrongful death.
Sadly, their case was unsuccessful. The hotel owed trespassers a duty to protect them “… from willful and wanton harm and upon discovery of their presence to warn them of known dangers not open to ordinary observation”.
Because Nitto knew he was not supposed to be in the hotel pool, and was trying to conceal himself from being discovered in the pool because the hotel personnel would kick him off the hotel property, he was a “trespasser” under Florida law. The hotel did not fail in their legal duty to him.
2. Injured While Swimming in Florida Hotel Pool
The injuries sustained by Ethel Gordon while swimming in a Florida hotel pool reached a different result for the hotel in the case of Gordon v. Hotel Seville. Mrs. Gordon was a guest of the hotel and was swimming in the hotel pool. Also enjoying their day at the hotel pool were several boys who were engaged in horseplay in the pool – and their antics resulted in Mrs. Gordon being hurt.
The boys were pushing each other into the hotel pool, among other things, and had been doing this “almost daily” without the hotel pool attendant doing anything to stop them. As Mrs. Gordon was swimming face down in the shallow end of the pool, one of the boys landed on top of her. She lost consciousness, and became hysterical upon recovering consciousness poolside where the attendant was administering first aid to her. Mrs. Gordon suffer bodily injuries including injuries to her neck.
The hotel refused to honor her claim for damages so she sued. Mrs. Gordon provided evidence that she was a paying guest of the hotel and therefore its “business invitee” who should receive the highest protections under the hotel’s legal duty of care to its guests.
The court agreed with Mrs. Gordon that the hotel owed her a duty of care, and that she had shown that the hotel had failed her as it not only knew of the boys’ dangerous conduct at the hotel pool but did nothing to try and curtail it.
Related: Hotel Injuries Caused By Chlorine
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed at a hotel pool, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.