Actress Demi Moore is well-known for her dramatic roles in films such as 'Ghost' and 'A Few Good Men', but it's doubtful she was prepared for the shocking news that a young man had been found dead in her swimming pool. The circumstances surrounding the young man's death remain unclear, but neither the actress nor her kids were home when it occurred. Regardless, whether or not the actress–or other homeowners in the same situation–can be held liable for a drowning in a swimming pool on the property depends on a few factors.
Liability Depends on Status
Homeowners' responsibility to people who enter their properties depends in part on whether they are an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Invitees and licensees are people who have the homeowner's permission to be on the property. As such, a homeowner has a higher level of responsibility to those people than they do towards trespassers.
For instance, homeowners must ensure their pools are reasonably safe to use and adhere to local, state, and federal regulations. They must also warn people about any hazards that may not be readily apparent. Failure to do so can result in the homeowner being liable for damages related to injuries or accidental drowning.
Contrary to that, a homeowner is generally not liable for injuries sustained by people trespassing on the property. If someone jumps your fence, uses your pool without your permission, and hurts themselves in the process, that person typically could not hold you liable for those injuries.
There are a couple of exceptions to this particular rule, though. You are responsible for injuries you purposefully cause. For instance, someone who sets a booby trap to maim anyone who illegally enters the property could be sued for damages and may also be subjected to criminal charges depending on the circumstances.
You are also liable for a trespasser's injuries if you can reasonably anticipate someone would trespass on your property. This is commonly seen in situations where the general public accesses a homeowner's property on a regular basis such as for taking a shortcut from one area to another. In this situation, you must warn potential trespassers of any dangers on the property.
A third exception concerns children and attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is anything that would lure a child to trespass on another person's property. For example, a child may enter a homeowner's backyard to play on a swing set. Swimming pools are major attractants, and homeowners are required to take special precautions to keep trespassing children away from their pools. For example, you would likely need to build a tall fence around your pool and secure it with a padlock to keep kids out.
Liability May Also Depends on Building Codes
You could also be held liable for pool injuries if your pool or the area it resides in does not adhere to local, state, or federal building codes. For example, the Sacramento Court of Appeals held a homeowner liable for a child's drowning death because it reasoned the property owner failed to take proper precautions to prevent the child from accessing the pool by not installing a self-latching mechanism on the kitchen door or putting a separate fence around the pool.
Along those same lines, you may also be liable for damages if you don't supply safety or emergency gear such as life preservers. This is of particular concern for homeowners who open their pools to the general public. It may be great to let kids cool off during the summer in your pool. If someone drowns because you didn't have safety equipment on hand, though, you could be made to pay thousands or millions of dollars in damages.
If someone suffered an injury in your swimming pool, it's essential that you connect with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to sort through more information about available legal options and defenses.