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Insurance Coverage Issues in Florida Child Drowning Case

poolsDue to the Florida climate, outdoor activities in the state are common all year round. Swimming pools are common in Florida homes and apartment complexes. In fact, many community associations attract buyers and renters with swimming pools on the property. In some cases, the swimming pool is private, and other times it is shared between multiple units. Robert Dixon is a highly experienced Miami personal injury lawyer who has helped numerous clients resolve their accident cases when the injury involved a swimming pool.

In the case of Southern Owners Insurance Company v. Cooperativa v. De Seguros Multiples, etc., the Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals held that an owner within a condominium association is not covered under the association’s insurance in a case claiming negligent supervision that ended in a child’s death through drowning.

The facts of the case are as follows. The decedent was a seven-year-old boy who was in the care of a homeowner who lived in a private and gated condominium association. The boy was using the association’s shared swimming pool at the time he drowned. Subsequently, the boy’s mother filed suit against the condominium owner under the theory of negligent supervision. The mother also sued the association for negligence.

The trial court entered summary judgment, determining that the unit owner was covered under the association’s liability insurance based on a clause that extended coverage to each individual member of the association but only in instances where liability arose from ownership, maintenance, or repair of parts of the property not reserved for the member’s exclusive use or residence. Thus, the trial court held that the insurance policy did cover the individual homeowner.

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the relevant issue in the case was whether the homeowner had “ownership” of the pool. The court determined that there was no evidence to illustrate the fact that the homeowner “owned” the pool. As a homeowner in the complex, she was allowed access and use of the pool, but the policy coverage did not extend coverage for liability arising out of “use.” For these reasons, a negligence action stemming from the use of the community pool was not sufficient for the liability coverage to kick in.

The court also referred to a relevant Florida Statute that states that property, such as the pool, is owned by the association as opposed to the individual homeowner. Moreover, there was no additional evidence indicating that a separate agreement or covenant would impose this type of liability. It is important to remember that this decision does not mean the plaintiff cannot recover at all. Instead, she can still seek damages from the homeowner’s insurer as well as the association’s insurer.

Swimming pools pose a risk to children all across the United States. Unfortunately, the state Department of Health reports that Florida is No. 1 when it comes to unintentional child drowning. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident involving a swimming pool, call the Law Offices of Robert Dixon today. Our highly skilled Miami premises liability lawyers have helped a number of clients throughout South Florida, and we can help you too. Contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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