It seems that our society continues to lose grasp on the norm of being self reliant and responsible for our actions. In recent years it appears that society believes everything is someone else's fault and not our own. I see increasing examples of this on a regular basis and recently I spoke with a person that had 7 days of jury duty involving the unfortunate drowning of a 3 year old boy at a Lancaster County apartment complex. While the drowning occurred a few years ago the trial took place earlier this year (2015).
This topic hits home for me because insuring apartment buildings is one of my larger commercial niches and so I was quite interested in the details and the results of the case. The plaintiff was the boys mother and the defendants were the apartment complex owner and the management company that ran the complex. A few interesting items were noted in the case, the plaintiff's attorney pointed out several factors in the case
- The 3 year old boy was allowed to run around outside of the apartment unit unsupervised.
- The mother and the boy were guests of one of the tenants.
- The pool had a functioning, self locking gate and fence around the pool.
- Other tenants were having a picnic just outside of the pool area and had propped open the gate so their children could run in and out of the pool area without having to unlock the gate each time.
So by now you are framing a picture of what occurred but your would be absolutely wrong. As it works out the mother and the tenant that they were staying with were sitting at a table within the pool area with an unobstructed view of the pool when the 3 year old boy drown! The jury did the correct thing and and found in favor of the defendants and so justice was served. But.....
This took up space in our court system, required a jury of people to be away from their jobs for 7 days, cost the property owners & managers insurance companies (and in turn the insurance purchaser) huge legal fees and time. I have to ask myself how this was even allowed to go to trial? Clearly this mother has no sense of self responsibility to think that someone else was legally responsible for her sons drowning when she was only feet away and knew that there wasn't a life guard.
However, let's imagine that the mother was in the apartment when the drowning occurred and that they boy was able to enter the pool since the gate was propped open by the other tenants. Who would be liable in that scenario? If the plaintiff attorney could have established that the defendant had know that tenants propped the gate open at times and didn't do anything about it there likely would have been liability on behalf of the property manager. The person who propped open the gate certainly would have been liable.
It is unfortunate that we as individuals and business owners have to attempt to protect ourselves from a society that believes if something bad happens to them it must be someone else's fault. Having proper insurance protection should at least help you sleep better, if you have any questions or would like a review of your asset protection plan with me give me a call at Definitive Insurance Solutions 717-537-1104.
Wishing you a safe and claim free life.
Joe Hershey, CPCU, CIC