With summer in full swing nothing sounds better than having a swimming pool in the backyard to enjoy. However, before you buy the new home with a pool or install one on your current property there are some liability issues to consider.
A homeowner can be held liable in some circumstance for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of a backyard pool. This can include people that you have invited onto your property but you can also be held liable when someone in injured or drowns while you are away and the person did not have permission to be on your property. This is particularly true in the case of a trespassing child.
There is case law and statutory law in Massachusetts that creates a duty on the part of landowners to make safe any artificial conditions existing on their land that might attract and ultimately injure children, even trespassing children.
The theory behind the attractive nuisance doctrine is that children, because they are curious and inexperienced, will be drawn to these potentially dangerous conditions, but will not be able to appreciate the danger.
Homeowner liability stems from a failure to do what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. Homeowners are expected to protect guests and prevent unwanted visitors with security measures and by keeping the pool and the area around the pool in good condition.
In Massachusetts, cities and towns have statues regarding construction and maintenance of residential swimming pools, including requirements for special covers, locked gates and fencing. For example, in Hanover, MA the town requires that “All pools must have a fence at least four feet high surrounding the pool area with self-latching gates that are inaccessible to small children. Above ground pools may not need separate fencing on the ground however an enclosure fence with self-latching gate is required at the ladder.” Homeowners are required to provide the manufacturers information sheets showing fence type, gate and locking device. In addition, doors leading directly from the house to the pool need a pool door alarm.
With the stakes this high homeowners are wise to incorporate every safety precaution for backyard pools.