Sunday, 1 July 2012

Can you be liable if someone injures themselves whilst swimming in your pool - Do you owe a duty of care to yourself?

You need to appreciate that as an adult you have a duty of care to yourself and if you do not act in a careful manner you may have no claim should you be injured due to acting in a manner in which there is a forseeable risk of injury

Okay the sun is out it is a glorious day and everyone has been invited round to your pool party.   What could go wrong, well sadly quite a lot as can be seem from the recent case of Grimes v Hawkins [2011] EWHC 2004 (QB) where the
Defendant owned a house with an indoor swimming pool. On 04.08.06, he went away for the night, leaving his 18-year-old daughter Kylie at home having agreed that  two friends could stay with her that night . In fact, after an evening in a nearby pub, some 20 young people including the Claimant arrived around midnight, having (as the Judge found) been expressly or impliedly invited by Kylie. Kylie gave the Claimant a swimming costumes to the Claimant and some other visitors.

The pool measured some 30 x 15 feet with a minimum depth of 34.6 in and maximum depth of 67.7 in. There were no  warning signs or depth markers and several people jumped into the pool and began, "bombing" others.  The Claimant jumped in and spent around 30 minutes in the pool, swimming around and chatting while standing in the shallow end. She then dived into the centre of the pool, hit the floor and sustained serious injuries and was eventually diagosed as  tetraplegic.

The Claimant claimed that the Defendant was negligent and in breach of his duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act because the pool was unsafe for diving so should have been locked to prevent access or alternatively, the Defendant, through his daughter K, ought to have issued an appropriate warning or forbidden diving.

The Judge held that the Claimant had been allowed to use the pool so, as a lawful visitor, and the Judge agreed that indeed the Defendant had owed her a common law duty of care while she was using the pool however he found that the pool was not unsafe for diving. Though, some people may have   refused permission for the swimming pool to be used, this did not mean that a duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 was owed to the Claimant and that Defendant should have made the  pool inaccessible.

The Judge said that  adults  made a choice about their behaviour and exercised that choice.    A householder with a private swimming pool should not have to prohibit adults from diving into an ordinary pool whose dimensions and contours could  clearly be seen.    The Judge qualified this statement by saying that it might be a different case where there was some hidden or unexpected hazard but in this instance there was none.

The Claimant was an adult and had done something that carried an obvious risk. She had chosen to dive when, where and how she did, knowing the risks involved. It would not have been fair, just or reasonable to have imposed a duty of care which required the Defendant to put the pool out of bounds or to have prohibited adults from diving into the pool.

To read the whole Judgment in this case please go to

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