Pool Owner’s Liability for Injuries

Posted On: Thursday, July 16, 2015

Question: I’m buying a house in Newton with a pool.  What is my liability as a homeowner?

Answer:  It depends.

While you have a legal duty to make sure you maintain your pool in a safe condition, your liability to someone who is injured in or around your pool depends in part on your relationship with that person, who can be anyone from a party guest, to a landscaper, to someone who has hopped the fence without your permission.

Homeowner’s Liability to Guests

Your duty to your guests – also known as “invitees” – generally is to maintain your pool in a safe condition, make reasonable inspections of the pool and pool area, and warn guests of any dangers you’re aware of.  The Federal pool-safety law, called the Virgina Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, addresses broken, missing or faulty drain covers.  In addition, there are state and local pool-safety laws which set forth certain requirements, such as child-resistant fencing, pool alarms, anti-entrapment devises and the like.  Compliance with pool-safety laws — in addition to keeping you and your family safe! — may decrease the risk of being held liable for any injuries or deaths which occur in your pool.

Homeowner’s Liability to Licensees

A licensee is someone who is on your property for business purposes, such as your landscaper or pool maintenance worker.  Your duty to licensees is to warn them about any hidden dangers in the pool or pool area.

Homeowner’s Liability to Trespassers

A trespasser is anyone who enters your property without permission.  This can be your teenage neighbor who hops the fence when he knows you’re out of town.  Generally, you are not responsible for the safety of trespassers on your property.  However, if you know someone is using your pool and you don’t do anything to stop it, that person may be considered an invitee, in which case a higher duty of care would apply.


As a mother first, and lawyer second, I figured that as long as I was educating homeowners generally about their liability, I may as well pass along some practical tips for preventing injuries in the first place.  I found the following article on the website of Pool Safely, a national public education campaign which supports the Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act and promotes pool safety:

Pool Safely’s Top 10 Tips to Stay Safer Around the Pool or Spa:

  1. Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  2. Install a four-foot or taller fence around the entire perimeter of the pool and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools.
  3. Never leave a child unattended in or near a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.
  4. Designate a Water Watcher to supervise children in the pool or spa. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smart phone or be otherwise distracted. Adults can take turns being a Water Watcher.
  5. If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
  6. Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  7. Ensure any public pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety requirements, and, if you do not know, ask the pool manager if the facility complies with the “VGB Act.”
  8. Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
  9. Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
  10. Have lifesaving equipment such as a life ring, float or fiberglass reaching pole available and accessible.

See more at: http://www.poolsafely.gov/news/cpsc-chairman-reminds-families-to-follow-10-simple-steps-to-pool-safely-during-independence-day-weekend/#sthash.JMSctd37.dpuf