Who is Liable for a Slip-and-Fall Accident at a Public Pool in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, swimming pools owned by municipalities, community associations or private clubs are covered by the State’s Bathing Code and rules at the Federal level. These laws and rules are in place to provide a safe experience at any pool, and this red tape is not without purpose.

The legal team at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C., want the public to know and understand New Jersey’s laws covering pool safety and the responsibilities of a pool’s owner. The focus of this blog is the pools owned by a municipality or a community association where citizens and members are invited.

The Public Pool

The number of injuries from a slip-and-fall incident on a pool deck, and those involving equipment, ladders, slides and diving boards, well out-number drownings. A pool falls under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. Under this doctrine, all trespassers in the pool area must be treated as invitees with a greater duty of care placed on the property owner to eliminate potential dangers and conditions for injuries.

It is this reason that local governments and the board members of community associations outsource the management of a pool area to a certified pool management company. Although the ultimate responsibility for injuries remains with the owner, the exposure is mitigated with the outsourcing to a management company. The management company is responsible for the hiring and the training of life and pool guards, and for the maintenance of the pool, the deck and all areas appurtenant to the pool.

The Promotion of Safety

The best way to promote safety is for the pool managers to remain constantly vigilant for slip-and-fall hazards on the deck, shower areas and changing facilities, and to take the appropriate actions to eliminate these hazards.

Another effective promotion of safety is the control and monitoring of access to the pool area by citizens and members of a community. Pool area access can be monitored by login or with electronic badge systems.

The tragedy of a slip-and-fall injury at a pool area is the relative ease of prevention. Signage, warnings and barriers with proper supervision can prevent most slip-and-fall accidents.

Common Causes of Slip-and Fall Accidents

Unfortunately, the common causes of slip-and-fall accidents occur due to inadequate safety measures and warning signs or barriers. Life and pool guards need to be confident in maintaining safety in the pool and the deck areas. This confidence comes with training and the support of management.

The areas used by the guests to access the pool or the appurtenant facilities should be clean and free from clutter and debris. Walk areas should not be blocked by furniture, wet towels, toys and other accessories brought into the area by the guests.

Common sense cannot be a given. There must be proper signage for “no diving”, “no running” “swim at your own risk”, and the hours or the pool’s opening and closing need to be clearly posted at various locations within the pool area.

The Responsible Party

Accidents and injuries involving a slip-and-fall incident come under New Jersey’s premises liability laws. Under these laws, the pool owners are responsible for injuries if the person was “invited or allowed upon the property.” However, as mentioned above, a pool falls under the attractive nuisance doctrine where everyone within the pool area is considered an invitee.

A higher standard for the duty of care is placed upon the pool’s owner to properly safeguard the pool and maintain all areas and equipment.

The most occurring negligent acts by or on behalf of a pool owner are:

  1. Lack of or improper fencing;
  2. Inadequate supervision;
  3. Lack of life preservers or other emergency equipment;
  4. Inadequate warning signs and barriers; and
  5. Failure to maintain the pool and the deck areas.

The parties responsible in a negligence case will be placed upon the pool’s owner, along with the companies hired by the owner for the maintenance, management and staffing.

All claims under the premises liability laws must be carefully scrutinized to properly identify the responsible parties. Every pool owner should be aware of the attractive nuisance doctrine where everyone is considered an invitee of the owner.

There are no trespassers at a public pool.