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Complex Legal Issues Regarding Drownings Involving POAs, Apartment Complexes, and Condominiums

With summer on the horizon, Miami families will flock to swimming pools for recreation, exercise, and leisure activity.  Although swimming pools are popular amenities in many apartment complexes, condominiums, and homeowners’ communities, residents and their guests are sometimes endangered by negligence.  The forms of unreasonably careless behavior that can lead to drowning deaths, or near drowning incidents that cause permanent brain damage, take many forms, such as inadequate security, unmaintained lifesaving equipment, missing drain covers, unsecured gates, or missing fencing.  In this blog post, our Miami drowning death attorneys review a decision from Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals which demonstrates the challenges drowning victims frequently face when pursuing compensation for wrongful death.

In Southern Owners Insurance Company v. Cooperativa v. De Seguros Multiples, etc., the parents of a seven-year-old boy brought a wrongful death lawsuit following the drowning of their child left in the care of a homeowner within a private gated condominium community.  The boy was swimming in a pool shared by members of the association at the time of his drowning.  The mother of the boy sued the condominium association alleging theories of negligence and negligent supervision.  The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff based on the conclusion that the association’s liability coverage extended to the owners of individual condo units.  The judge relied on a clause providing that the coverage of the association applied to individual members when liability was the product of repair, maintenance, or ownership of areas of the premises not reserved for an individual member’s exclusive use or individual unit. 

The Florida 5th DCA focused on whether the unit owner had “ownership” of the swimming pool.  The court reasoned that no evidence had been introduced to establish the condo unit owner had any ownership interest in the pool.  Although the court acknowledged that homeowners were entitled to “access” and use” of the pool, the insurance policy was limited to ownership interest.  The court further buttressed its ruling by relying on a Florida statute that provides that items like swimming pools are owned by associations rather than individual members.  Since the plaintiff could not point to a provision in any association agreement with property owners that granted ownership rights over the swimming pool, the liability coverage of the association did not extend to the owner of the individual unit.

While this decision did not preclude the ability of the plaintiff to recover, limited access to insurance coverage might impede the ability of a wrongful death victim to fully recover for all damages.  Admittedly, the owner of the individual unit usually will have coverage, but the policy limits of the owner of the condominium complex will generally be higher.  Given that swimming pool accidents frequently result in death or permanent brain injury, the extent of your damages could exceed the limits of the coverage of an individual condo unit.  Further, the owner of an individual apartment might have no coverage applicable to a drowning or near drowning that results in a brain injury.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

Our Miami personal injury lawyers know that swimming pools pose a serious risk to the safety of small children.  Florida is the location of more unintentional drownings than any other state in the U.S. according to the State Department of Health.  We understand the complex legal issues that arise in lawsuits involving injuries incurred in swimming pool accidents.  Our attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation our clients are entitled to under the law.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted many people with damage claims across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.





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