The recent electrocution incident at Harbourside Place in Jupiter, Florida, is a stark reminder that electrocutions and electrical shock incidents in public places, particularly areas that attract children, are alarming and of great concern. These accidents not only lead to potential injuries and even death, but also underscore the need for more vigorous safety protocols and awareness.
Incidents Happen more often than the Public is Aware of
Electrocutions and electrical shock incidents in public places, including pools, fountains, and sprinklers, are a serious issue in the United States. Although not very common, they’re often highly publicized due to the serious nature of the injuries and the public locations involved. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an average of more than 400 electrocutions and over 4,000 non-fatal electrical shock injuries each year in the United States. Here are some examples of electrocutions and electrical shock incidents that have occurred in public places in the U.S.:
- In 2018, a 6-year-old girl was shocked while grabbing an energized handrail at MGM National Harbor in Washington, D.C. The incident happened at an outdoor fountain area. The child went into cardiac arrest, but was treated and eventually recovered.
- Two adults and a child were hospitalized after suffering electrical shock injuries after jumping into the pool at the Cold River Campground in Eddington, Maine, in 2021.
- In 2019, two people suffered injuries after sustaining an electrical shock at a community pool in North Potomac, Maryland.
- Four employees at Volcano Bay, a water park inside the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida, were taken to the hospital after being shocked in a water amusement in June, 2019.
- In 2020, an electrocution incident at Lake Pleasant in Arizona, left one person dead and injured two others. The incident happened on a dock at Scorpion Bay, located north of Phoenix.
Reasons Why Electrocutions and Electrical Shock Incidents Occur in Public Places Featuring Water
There are many reasons why electrocutions and electrical shock incidents happen in public places, especially public places featuring water elements such as pools, fountains, and sprinkler pads. Water being such a good conductor of electricity is probably the main reason. Here are some others:
- Improper Grounding– Proper grounding ensures that any stray electric currents are directed AWAY from the water and into the ground. If a water feature or any electrical component associated with it is improperly grounded, it can pose a significant risk.
- Faulty Wiring – Over time, the wiring associated with water features can corrode. Frayed or exposed wires can electrify water.
- Damaged Equipment – Water pumps, lights, heaters, and other equipment can malfunction and “leak” electric current into the water if not regularly inspected and maintained.
- Lack of GFCI Protection – Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are devices meant to shut off electric power when they detect a disparity in incoming and outgoing current, suggesting a leak (like into water). If water features aren’t equipped with or are improperly installed with GFCI’s, they pose a risk.
- Overloaded Circuits – Placing too much demand on a single circuit can lead to overheating, and in some cases. Electrical leaks and fires.
- Others – Use of non-waterproof equipment, improper installation, construction damage, inadequate insulation, water contaminants, regular wear and tear, metal components.
To prevent such incidents, regular maintenance, proper equipment, professional installations, and maintaining proper safety protocols are paramount.
Doctrine of “Attractive Nuisance”
The “attractive nuisance” doctrine is a legal principle that arises in tort law. It essentially says that a property owner may be liable for injuries to children trespassing on the property if the injury is caused by an object, structure, or condition that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risks posed by that object, structure, or condition.
Core Elements of the Doctrine
For the doctrine of attractive nuisance to apply, several elements typically must be satisfied:
1. The Property Owner Knows (or Should Know) of the Danger
If there’s something dangerous on their property, the owner should know about it, especially if it can hurt kids.
2. Children are Likely to Trespass
The owner should understand that kids might come onto their property if they see something interesting or fun there.
3. The Risk is Not Obvious to Children
Some dangers might not be obvious to kids because of their age, so they might not realize they can get hurt.
4. The Risk of Harm Outweighs the Utility
If something can seriously hurt a kid, it’s more important to keep them safe than to keep that thing around.
5. The Owner Didn’t Make it Safe
The owner didn’t do enough to make the dangerous thing safe or warn kids about it.
How “Attractive Nuisance” Applies to Situations Involving Children
Children, because of their age, development, and lack of experience, often don’t perceive risks in the same way as adults do. The attractive nuisance doctrine recognizes this. Here are some examples to explain:
- Swimming Pools – An unsecured pool might attract children. If a child drowns or is injured, even if they were trespassing, the pool owner might be held liable because pools are often seen as an “attractive nuisance” to children.
- Construction Sites – Items like trucks, machinery, and piles of sand might attract kids. If these sites aren’t properly secured, the property owner could be liable for any injuries sustained by children.
In any similar scenario, even if the child was technically trespassing, the property owner might still be liable for injuries if the attractive nuisance doctrine applies.
It’s essential to understand that not every potentially dangerous condition will qualify as an attractive nuisance. The specifics can also vary by jurisdiction, and there might be defenses available to property owners.
Contact a West Palm Beach Premises Liability Attorney Today
If you or someone you love has been injured due to the negligence of a property owner in the West Palm Beach area, turn to the team at GOLDLAW today. We have the resources needed to handle the entirety of your claim, including negotiations with insurance companies and the personal injury trial process. We want to help you secure the compensation you are entitled to. When you need a West Palm Beach premises liability attorney, contact our office to schedule a free consultation today.