As of April 1, IPSSA’s liability insurance policy no longer covers injury claims that result from diving boards installed or replaced by one of its members.
“If there is a diving board-related injury and the pool man is sued, he is out of luck if he replaced or installed that board,” said Ray Arouesty, owner of Arrow Insurance Service in Simi Valley, Calif., and manager of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association’s insurance program.
Arouesty’s decision to drop the coverage was driven by a diving board injury lawsuit that was settled in 2006 for a total of $10 million between four parties.
In June 2004, Neil Raymond, 42, dove from a diving board, landed in the shallow end of the pool, and was rendered a quadriplegic. The board in question had been replaced by a service technician. According to Arouesty, the Bakersfield, Calif., homeowner paid out $5.5 million, while the previous owner was found liable for $2.5 million. Inter-Fab, the diving board manufacturer, was accountable for $1 million, as was Advanced Pool, the service company that replaced the board.
Arouesty said he has been advising industry members for the past 10 years not to replace diving boards. Following the Raymond lawsuit, he believed the risk had just gotten too high. He said IPSSA members have been supportive of his decision to remove the coverage from the policy.
“People told me that they haven’t been replacing boards in years,” he said, adding that just one IPSSA member getting sued could impact the entire organization.
“There is no good way to safeguard against the magnitude of these kinds of claims,” he said. “Every member who does not replace a board would still be vulnerable [because of] those who do because we have a master group policy. So I decided to be proactive. I feel that I have a responsibility to the 3,700 families [of IPSSA members] to keep the program going.”
When it comes to diving board accidents, there are usually no small injuries, Arouesty said. Instead, such incidents often result in paralysis, and therefore jury awards can be high.
“There is a major loss of a lifestyle component and there is ongoing medical care for the rest of a person’s life,” Arouesty said. “That makes for high damages. In some cases, [the damages] are even higher than in wrongful death suits.”
Liability in these cases only applies to the installation or replacement of diving boards. A service technician is still allowed to tighten a loose bolt or make other minor adjustments. Nevertheless, Arouesty cautions that if a tech notes an existing dangerous condition, he or she should discuss the removal of the board with the pool owner.