If you are staying at a hotel in Rancho Bernardo with your family, and there is a swimming pool accident, who is liable? Hotel accidents and accidental drowning incidents happen more often than they should. Hotels in Southern California and throughout the country often have signs around pool areas that warn about risks. In some situations, parents sign waivers for their kids to use a hotel pool. Can a hotel still be liable in the event that a drowning incident occurs and a child sustains serious personal injuries?
The facts of each case are different, but it is important to know that warnings and waivers do not always release hotels or other property owners from liability in a swimming pool accident.
Premises Liability and Swimming Pools at California Hotels
If you stay at a hotel, you should be able to expect that the premises will be free from hazards that could result in a serious accident. Likewise, you should be able to anticipate that a pool deck area does not have hazards that could lead to a slip and fall accident or a drowning incident. Hotels owe a duty to keep the premises safe for guests. Under California law, to prove that a hotel breached that duty to its guests, the plaintiff must be able to show the following:
- Hotel was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- Plaintiff suffered harm; and
- Hotel’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.
What does it mean for the hotel to be negligent in the use or maintenance of the property? California law clarifies that a hotel can be negligent if it “fails to use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.” This means that the hotel must “use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others.”
Hotel Swimming Pool Accidents That Could Result in Liability
There are some types of hotel accident cases in which the hotel more clearly bears responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries. For instance, if there is an unsafe condition around the hotel pool, such as a gaping hole or a broken pool ladder, then it is more likely that the plaintiff will be able to prove that the hotel was negligent in a premises liability lawsuit. However, other situations are trickier.
In instances in which parents rely on a swim instructor or activities instructor at the hotel to provide reasonable care for their kids, then the hotel may be liable, even if the parents sign a waiver. For example, in the California Supreme Court case of Santa Barbara v. Janeway (2007), the parents signed a waiver regarding their child’s swimming at a summer camp. The court held that, while parents can sign a waiver that removes liability in instances of ordinary negligence, such waivers are unenforceable when there are instances of gross negligence.
Yet other situations are even trickier. What if the pool deck does not have any obvious hazards, but it simply has not been updated in a number of years, and the walkway is slicker than it used to be? Does the question of liability change as soon as the hotel posts warning signs? In most situations, a warning sign will help to show that the hotel exercised reasonable care, but it is always important to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer.
Contact a Rancho Bernardo Hotel Accident Lawyer
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(image courtesy of Ryan Wilson)