Federal Law on Pool Drain Safety

Congress enacted the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act) after the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III drowned because of a pool drain in a spa. The suction of the drain trapped and drowned the seven-year-old girl, despite the efforts of adults to pull her free.

The federal legislation requires that all public pools and spas have raised, curved drain covers instead of the older-design of flat covers, which are more likely to trap people. Pools that do not have at least two compliant drains must have an automatic shut-off system or other safety features to prevent suction from trapping or injuring swimmers.

How the Law Applies to Your Situation

Public pools: If the drain accident or injury happened in a public pool or spa that did not comply with the P&SS Act, the owner will be negligent for failure to follow the law. There is no excuse that the owner needed more time, since the act is now ten years old. In fact, the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) celebrated ten years with no reported drain entrapment-related deaths of children in public pools or spas. Any public pool or spa that is operating in violation of the law will have to answer for injuries or accident.

Private pools: The P&SS Act does not apply to private pools. The Georgia Department of Public Health has rules for swimming pools, spas, and recreational water parks, but those regulations do not apply to:

  • Private swimming pools, hot tubs, or spas at single-family homes only for the use of the residents and their guests
  • Apartment complex pools
  • Country club pools
  • Subdivision pools only for the use of subdivision residents and their guests
  • Therapeutic pools or chambers
  • Religious ritual baths

If the pool drain accident happened in a public pool that failed to follow the federal or state law, and your injury occurred because of that failure, the pool owner will be liable for your damages. If the accident took place in a private pool, the owner could still be responsible under the theory of negligence.

How a Private Pool Owner Can Be Negligent About Drains

If the pool owner knew that the pool drain was damaged, defective, or otherwise dangerous but did not repair or replace the equipment, the owner can be responsible to people who sustain injuries. Property owners must fix hazardous conditions on their property or warn their guests about the risk of injury. If the pool owner knows that people will be swimming in a pool with a dangerous drain, she can at least turn off the pool pump to stop the suction of water through the drain.

When there is no barrier or fence around a pool, the owner can be liable for injuries that could have been prevented by an enclosure. Even if not required by local ordinances, it can be negligence if the owner does not protect the public, particularly children, from “attractive nuisances” like swimming pools that draw children to them and then lead to injuries.

Liability under negligence requires:

  • A duty of care: Pool owners have a duty of care toward people who are anticipated to use the pool.
  • Breach of duty: If the pool owner does not protect potential swimmers from a known dangerous drain or provide an adequate enclosure to offset the attractive nuisance quality of a swimming pool, the owner is negligent.
  • Causation: If the negligence caused the accident or injury, the pool owner is liable for the damages.

Damages for a Pool Drain Injury

After we prove that the negligence caused the injury, depending on the facts of the case, we can hold the pool owner responsible for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Ongoing medical treatments
  • Long-term care
  • Decreased earning potential
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

These injury claims usually fall under the pool owner’s insurance policy. If you call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. at 404-474-0804, we will schedule your free consultation to evaluate whether you are entitled to compensation for your losses.

Jason R. Schultz
Helping Georgia area residents with car accident, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims since 1991.