Last year, I wrote about the very sad drowning death of a two-year-old boy who wandered into an apparently unsafe backyard near his home. Isaac Dieudonne, 2, walked out the front door of his new home and into the pool area of the next-door neighbor’s home, which was vacant. At least two gates leading to the pool were reportedly open, despite laws requiring self-latching gates intended to prevent this type of accident. At the time, the case attracted my attention because of speculation that the home was vacant due to foreclosure. On Oct. 29 of this year, that speculation was confirmed by a McClatchy article about the Dieudonne family’s struggle to hold someone responsible for Isaac’s death. Because the home is in foreclosure, it isn’t clear whether the mortgage holder, mortgage servicer or maintenance company should be responsible.
According to the article, the Dieudonnes’ Miramar premises liability attorney wasn’t even sure who owned the property at first. The title had changed hands several times; some documents were fraudulent or had serious errors; and was at one point being foreclosed on in two cases at the same time. As a result, the family has named 20 defendants in the case, including owners, servicers, maintenance companies and a company that was holding the title for an owner. Some of the defendants claim they didn’t own the property at the time of Isaac’s death. All of this has already complicated the case, with an unnecessary move to federal court, and with 20 corporate defendants, more delays are likely. The Dieudonnes claim that neither the side gate to the home’s backyard nor the gate into the pool were fitted with self-closing spring locks, as required by Miramar city code — and that they’re still unsafe today.
Unfortunately, drowning in swimming pools is a well known risk for toddlers and young children, which is exactly why cities have laws about self-latching gates. Under normal circumstances, a property owner’s failure to follow those laws can expose him or her to a premises liability lawsuit like the one the Dieudonnes are pursuing. Florida law gives everyone who owns or operates a property a legal obligation to ensure that the property is safe. This includes protections against foreseeable dangers, including the danger that a small child could get into a swimming pool without supervision. In my experience as a Lauderhill premises liability lawyer, handling this in a private home is usually a matter of handling the homeowners’ insurance company. But when it’s not even clear who owns the property, the entire process gets dragged out — and the family’s suffering unfortunately gets dragged out along with it.
At Cohn, Smith & Cohn, we handle all types of premises liability claims. These are also called slip and fall lawsuits, but that name can be misleading, because property owners are liable for any type of accident on their premises. In addition to slips and trips, this could mean falling from an unsafe staircase or balcony, attacks by dangerous dogs, harm to children from an “attractive nuisance” like a swimming pool or even a violent crime that the property owner failed to prevent. Our Lake Worth premises liability attorneys help victims of all of these and other accidents hold the property owners responsible, whenever they allowed an unsafe condition to continue. In this type of claim, victims and their families can claim compensation for all of their medical bills, lost past and future income, pain and suffering and any permanent disability or wrongful death.
Cohn, Smith & Cohn offers free, confidential case evaluations, so you risk nothing by telling us about your case and learning more about our experience. To set up a meeting, call us today at (954) 431-8100 or send us a message through the Internet.