This case involves a four-year-old boy who was attending a summer camp. The camp had given the boy a swimming test that showed he had limited swimming ability. This indicated that he should be restricted to the shallow end of the pool. Despite the results of this test, the camp still allowed the boy to have full access to the pool. On one occasion, a camp counselor took the boy out to the middle of the pool and began roughhousing with him and dunking him under the water. The boy began gasping for air because he could not swim and could not grab the edge of the pool. The boy drowned and floated in the pool for six minutes while lifeguards, who were positioned approximately 15 feet away, did not rescue him. The boy’s parents brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the camp claiming that they were negligent in not having staff properly trained to respond to swimming accidents and not having proper procedures for pool use.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Can a summer camp be held liable for the death of a preschooler if a camp counselor repeatedly dunks the boy under water and he drowns?
Expert Witness Response
In general, a summer camp may be held liable for a drowning death that results from the camp having breached a standard of care or being careless or negligent about supervision of children while they are in a pool. Since it is the camp’s duty to make sure that campers are kept out of harm’s way and to ensure that the staff is properly trained to deal with swimming accidents, if a lifeguard fails to properly monitor children in a pool and a child dies, the camp may be held liable for negligence. In this case, the camp was probably negligent because even after administering the swimming test to the boy, they failed to monitor him and failed to make sure that he only swam in the shallow end of the pool, which was the section that his swimming ability allowed. The lifeguards and counselors were also negligent in failing to properly monitor the boy in the water, since they were not watching the pool closely enough and let him float in the water for several minutes before they got him out of the pool. In this case, the camp should have established a water-safety procedure requiring specific lifeguards and/or counselors to be assigned to observe, monitor, and protect specific children who were poor swimmers while they were in the pool.