The Start of Summer in Oregon and Reflections on Properly Safeguarding Pools from Unattended Children

As OregonLive reported earlier this month, Portland’s public pools (excluding Montavilla) opened on June 20. For many, this date represents the beginning of the summer recreation season. In addition to the area’s public pools, private swimming pools represent a source of fun and activity for many. They also can be catastrophically dangerous if the owner fails to take proper safety precautions. These failures can lead to children suffering life-altering or fatal injuries. While we all hope never to be in the position of needing legal counsel in the wake of a child’s catastrophic or fatal injuries, these tragedies do happen and, when they do, experienced Oregon premises liability lawyers are here to provide the answers you need.

The start of another summer recreation season is an excellent time to look at the laws and regulations regarding pool safety, as a failure to block children’s access to an unattended pool can have tragic results.

A news report from the Toledo, Ohio, area is illustrative. Last October, a 4-year-old boy and his 2-year-old brother wandered away from their home. Police returned the older boy to his mother but later found the toddler at the bottom of a neighbor’s pool. Resuscitation efforts were not successful.
Rules instituted by the local government require property owners to install fences around pools, but the pool in this case did not have one, triggering a complaint with the city.

Minimum Pool Barrier Requirements in Portland

Here in the City of Portland, you need a permit to build a pool, hot tub, spa, pond, or other water feature. Be aware that your pool need not be some massive structure with water five or six feet deep to fall under the city’s rules. The city defines a swimming pool as “any structure used for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 24 inches deep.”

The city spells out specific standards for limiting access to a pool. For one thing, any pool “not totally enclosed by a structure must be enclosed by a barrier or fence at least four (4) feet in height.” Simply putting up a small picket fence or board fence often is not enough. The city’s rules say that the “maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier is 2 inches” and that “openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.”

The fence also must have a self-closing and latching gate, unless “bordered by a wall of an adjacent structure at least 4 feet in height.” Furthermore, the fence must be three feet or more away from the outer walls of the pool.

The Law of ‘Attractive Nuisance’

The law has options for holding a property owner accountable if they fail to place proper safeguards around a pool and an injury results from that failure. This area of the law is called the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. An attractive nuisance is anything that is potentially dangerous and would draw the attention and interest of a child (and motivate them to trespass onto the property.)

Many objects may serve as attractive nuisances, but swimming pools are by far the most common. While some attractive nuisance cases may involve in-depth arguments about whether a property owner or possessor reasonably should have known that an item was an attractive nuisance, swimming pool matters generally involve no such gray areas. Pools represent perhaps the quintessential attractive nuisance. Any reasonable owner or possessor of a property containing a pool would recognize the potential dangers involved and therefore have a legal duty to protect against such harm.

These types of legal matters, like any that involve injuries to children, can be unimaginably painful for the family involved. Given the emotion inherent in these cases, it is wise to obtain experienced legal counsel who can provide objective and knowledgeable answers and advice about your situation. The skilled Oregon premises liability attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC have extensive first-hand experience in premises liability matters. We also are a small firm dedicated to providing all our clients with personalized representation that is as thoughtful as it is knowledgeable. Call (503) 226-3844 today or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email:
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