The requirement to bring pools and spas into compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety became effective more than a year ago. As we know, VGB requires that all public pools and spas be equipped with unblockable suction outlets and/or secondary safety devices.
However, little attention has been paid to the potential liability of residential swimming pool or spa owners and the pool service technician’s duty, if any, to address the issue of residential anti-entrapment safety upgrades.
Commonly accepted legal principles say that a landowner will be liable for injury caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances. For example, the parents of a child entrapped in a non-compliant residential pool would argue that the pool owner failed to exercise ordinary care because the entrapment was foreseeable and would have been prevented had the pool been upgraded with readily-available anti-entrapment covers/devices.
The pool service technician would likely be sued in this litigation under the theory that he was negligent by failing to advise the residential pool owner of the availability of VGB Act-compliant equipment. The public views service technicians as experts in the areas of water chemistry, maintenance and equipment by virtue of their training, certification and experience. The pool owner’s reliance on the technician’s recommendation, or lack thereof, is therefore reasonable.
The best approach for the service technician is to provide his residential customers written notification of the availability of VGB Act-compliant covers, SVRS products and the safety benefits each offers. Doing so should satisfy the pool technician’s duty to warn and, at minimum, it will provide an important element to his legal defense.
— Ray Arouesty, president, Arrow Insurance Service Inc., Simi Valley, Calif.