The case of the month involves a typical back yard swimming pool. It was an in-ground, plastered concrete, free-form shaped pool, measuring about 16 feet wide and 32 feet long. It had the usual hardscape walkways around it, and it was properly fenced, properly maintained and properly cleaned.
And what backyard swimming pool would be complete without a diving board? This pool had a typical springy diving board, mounted at approximately knee height at the deep end of the pool. The “jump board” was installed by the pool contractor when the pool was built a number of years earlier.
True to the stereotype, a pool party was in progress on the hot afternoon of the incident. There were lots of people, lots of food, lots of laughter, lots of adult beverages, and lots of showing off.
One of the stars of the show dived off of the jump board 4-5 times to demonstrate his skills. He then decided to do a back flip into the water. After entering the water, he plunged down to the bottom and hit his head. Instead of his usual quick return to the surface, he remained at the bottom of the pool, unconscious. The startled bystanders quickly pulled him out of the pool and called for the paramedics. The paramedics transported him to the local hospital. After appropriate tests, the doctors diagnosed him as inebriated, accompanied by a concussion and a severe neck injury.
GEI was called in to evaluate the cause of the accident.
While the water was clean and clear at the time of incident, the pool had essentially been locked down and abandoned after the accident. At the time of our inspection, the pool water was green with algae and the bottom could not be seen. Also, the water level was approximately 10 inches below the normal level required for the pool filter to function.
There are controlling standards in pool design and construction. In this case, NSPI-5 2003 (National Spa and Pool Institute) governed. This standard applies to permanently installed residential in-ground swimming pools intended for noncommercial use as a swimming pool by not more than three owner families and their guests and exceeding 24 inches in water depth and having a volume over 3,250 gallons. It covers specifications for new construction and rehabilitation of residential in-ground swimming pools and includes design, equipment (including diving boards), operation and installation.
While the pool bottom contours were not visible, our expert was able to accurately measure the contours using special equipment he designed for this occasion.
What he found was the pool bottom contours did not meet the requirements of NSPI-5 for “Minimum Water Envelopes” for pools using a jump board. Basically, the pool was too shallow to safely permit the kinds of dives that occur from a jump board.
Accordingly, the homeowner’s insurance company filed a subrogation claim against the pool contractor. The contractor’s insurance company then paid for the medical costs of the injured diver and for the removal of the diving board.