A woman in Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart after her son drowned in an inflatable pool purchased from the retail giant.
Marisol Maldonado filed the claim in June of last year, seeking recovery of damages for the death of her son in 2006. The case is currently in a pre-trial phase of investigating manufacturing standards, labeling and related lawsuits.
Maldonado’s complaint cites the inflatable pool as defective and alleges negligence on the part of Wal-Mart.
“The instructions and warnings don’t seem to tell the consumers that you really need to have some kind of fence, not only for other people … but your own kids.” said Mike Rooney, principal a Rooney & Rooney, LLP, who is representing Maldonado.
However, the actual manufacturer of the pool is still being investigated because the product was thrown away by the victim’s grandmother shortly after the incident.
Aqua Leisure Industries and Intex Recreation Corp. initially were named as defendants in the lawsuit because they supplied inflatable pools to Wal-Mart. But it was later determined that the more likely manufacturer was General Foam Plastics. General Foam has been named in at least two other lawsuits involving product liability and big-box stores. The Norfolk, Va.-based manufacturer was named alongside KMart as a defendant in two separate cases: a complaint over ladder injuries in 1997 and a cover-related drowning lawsuit in 2006.
The Maldonado case illustrates a common concern among dealers of pool and spa products. One of the biggest dangers for consumers buying pools from big-box stores is the absence of advice, which is available at specialty retail outlets.
“[Big-box stores] might have employees there to help you drag it out to the car, but they don’t have … people who are familiar with safety standards and fencing code requirements,” Rooney noted.
Affordability has bolstered inflatable pool sales in recent years, but the product’s popularity has led to problems. In 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nine deaths associated with inflatable pools. That number increased to 17 in 2005, and then 21 in 2006.
“As the number of [inflatable] pools goes up, I think the number of drownings will go up ... unless there’s a much better education program and warnings so people know what the hazards are with these things,” Rooney said. “We hope [to] advance public safety with some of this, and public awareness as well.”