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Safety Advocates Call for Stronger Product Safety Enforcement After Key Biscayne Girl Entrapped by Pool Drain

As a Broward County injuries to minors lawyer, I was relieved to see a happy ending to a South Florida case that got national attention. Firefighters from Key Biscayne and Miami spent a tense hour Aug. 24 rescuing a three-year-old girl who got stuck in a swimming pool’s drain. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the little girl was swimming under adult supervision in a backyard pool at a condominium building on Key Biscayne when her arm got stuck. Rescue workers eventually managed to free her, but had to cut a part of the pipe and attached concrete in order to do it. According to the paper, the girl’s hand was slightly crushed, but she was not seriously injured.

It was unclear how the unnamed little girl got stuck in the drain, but the suction created by the drain kept her, and rescuers, from being able to simply pull her arm out. Instead, they tried draining the pool to relieve water pressure, then realized that pressure was not the problem and began cutting out the pipe. While the firefighters worked, the girl’s parents jumped into the pool and helped hold her head above water so she could breathe. After she was freed, she was airlifted to a hospital for further treatment.

Safety advocates told the newspaper that the case underscores the importance of a new federal law intended to prevent just this kind of accident. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requires public pools and spas — including apartment and condo pools like this one — to install dome-shaped or large and flat drain covers that children cannot get their hands into. Poolsafety.gov, a government Web site explaining the law, said the suction can entrap small children, causing deaths or serious brain damage due to drowning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 83 swimming pool entrapments between 1999 and 2008, including 11 fatalities and 69 injuries. Nonetheless, safety advocates said pools around the nation, including the Key Biscayne pool, are not complying with the law, and states have not enforced it, suggesting there may be “a huge safety problem.”
As a Boca Raton child injury attorney, I am particularly concerned about this because South Florida is full of swimming pools, many of which are not in compliance with the Act or not obligated to be. However, manufacturers of swimming pool drains and equipment, like all manufacturers, have a legal obligation to make products that are safe to use and free of defects — or at least warn their customers about potential safety problems. And operators of public and apartment-complex swimming pools are obligated to comply with the Act. In this case, failing to fulfill those duties puts children at risk of death, which I believe everyone can agree is unacceptable. When children are hurt as a result of this negligence, they and their families have a legal right to hold the negligent people legally liable for the injuries and the often-steep financial costs they cause.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn is proud to represent families struggling with the serious aftereffects of injuries to their minor children. Our Plantation injuries to minors lawyers help victims and their families recover the costs of an injury and call attention to serious safety problems in hope that they won’t devastate other families in the future. In a lawsuit, families can recover compensation for hospital bills, the cost of future medical care and all of the income parents lost from taking time off work to deal with a devastating injury. Our goal is to help families defray some of the terrible financial effects of serious injuries to children, so they can focus on helping the victim heal and work toward a healthy, successful adulthood.

If your family suffered a devastating injury to a minor child through no fault of your own, Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help you learn more about your rights and your options. To set up a consultation at absolutely no charge to you, please contact us online or call our main office in Hollywood at (954) 431-8100 today.

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