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Must Hotels With Pools Have A Lifeguard On Duty?


A pool is often a big draw for hotels and motels, especially in Florida where steamy weather requires a place to cool off. Unfortunately, many accidents can occur in swimming pools. Some people suffer near-drowning injuries, such as brain damage, while others die in the water.

One question that pops up regularly is whether hotels must have a lifeguard on duty to protect guests. Under Florida premises liability law, hotels and motels owe a duty of care to their customers. However, as Florida courts have regularly found, there is no general duty to have a lifeguard.

Private Pools are Not Public Pools

Florida Administrative Code sets out certain certification requirements for lifeguards who work at public swimming pools. And these certification requirements will apply if the hotel hires a lifeguard. But the Code does not mandate that private businesses hire lifeguards to protect patrons, and the court system has not created any rule, either.

Of course, hotels and motels owe a duty of care to protect patrons from foreseeable dangers on their property. You might think that a swimming pool provides plenty of opportunities for people to get hurt. Someone might suffer a medical emergency while swimming, for example, and need a rescue. Or people could dive and cannonball in the water in such a way that they land on people already in the pool.

Still, Florida courts have held that there is no general duty to hire lifeguards for private pools. What’s more: a pool without a lifeguard is the type of “open and obvious” danger, so patrons should be on notice that they need to be careful when swimming. These rules combined make it hard to recover compensation for a swimming mishap in a hotel pool.

Hotels Are Liable for Some Hazards

Any business establishment with a pool could still be liable for an accident, depending on the circumstances. For example, if the pool has a defect that injures someone, then they could be responsible. Loose tiles that cause someone to slip or a springboard that is defective are hazards the hotel should correct.

If the hotel knows that a patron is acting dangerously, they should also prohibit him or her from the pool. Likewise, they should take steps to protect patrons against crime by, for example, prohibiting non-guests from using the pool and having locked doors or gates.

Although hotels need not hire lifeguards, they are not free to keep their “heads in the sand” about the condition of the pool or any hazards present. Key facts include the nature of the hazard, what the hotel knew about it, and how long the hazard existed. If necessary, the hotel might need to shut down the pool and prohibit anyone from using it until they can make the pool reasonably safe.

Were You Harmed in a Swimming Pool? Call Us

Earnhart Law can review the facts of your case to determine whether the hotel breached its duty of care. Call us today at 561-265-2220 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Delray Beach premises liability lawyers.

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