Potential law suit

10 Replies

I have a tenant who rents our property for the last 6 months .. The property is in a LLC out of Delaware, and it's a partnership do to be a rental property ...

This tenant left there sliding glass door open and this poor little baby crawled outside and drowned in the pool... We feel very bad for this and we were also wondering any other precautions we can take ??

We do have liability ins on the property as well..

Any advice would be great..

I am so sorry.  My parents had a simliar thing happen years ago, it only takes a minute of inattention.  At the time, this happened to our family the law did not require separate fencing from the rest of the backyard and while many states now do, some states still allow a patio backdoor to allow immediate access to the pool. I would always have separate fencing for a pool meaning that you can't just go in the backyard and reach the pool. Also there is a certain type of gate latch now for the gate to a pool area where it self latches.  We rented out a house in AZ and we added the seperate fence even though it was not the prettiest look to have it that way.  Check that your fencing was per state guidelines or better. This is one place where it is very important to meet current code. For winter they also sell walk on pool covers which help  when a pool is not in use.  

Also be prepared for this family to leave and make it as easy as possible, it is very hard for families to stay in house where this happens.  

You might consider alerting your insurance carrier. If you satisfied the legal requirements, you may not have any liability, but they would likely appreciate the heads up should a suit later be filed.

Something I would add to all exterior doors would be an alarm that goes off when the door is opened. You can touch a button to keep it from going off but you can't leave the door open or the alarm will go off.
My heart goes out for your tenants.

@Mario M.

I am an attorney who specializes in general liability work.  This is not legal advice and I am not your attorney.  This does not constitute an attorney client communication or relationship.  This is general counsel I would write in a blog post to anyone regardless of their circumstances should an issue like this occur.

Your LLC will almost certainly be named in a lawsuit for this. You may want to consult with your personal attorney right now, but you should definitely notify your liability insurance carrier immediately and they should assign an attorney to the case (thought it may take some time for that to happen). In an instance where a code violation is at issue, you could be named personally also. If that happens, get your own attorney (other than the LLC/insurance carrier's counsel) post haste.

Do not talk to anyone about this incident other than to say "it is very sad and the family has our thoughts/prayers/condolences, etc."  Do not give a statement to anyone who calls.  Do not comment on the condition or status of the property.  Do not reach out to the tenants or the family of the child who died. 

If your policy limits are more than the total value of property in the LLC (which they always should be) you will probably be released when the case settles. Your policy might go up. Also, ask your attorney about recommendations for improving the security around the pool. Do not ask anyone else because your conversations with anyone else are not protected. If your attorney recommends that you make any changes, make them.

Also, if the family who is renting wants out of the lease, bend over backwards to let them out and help them (ie. don't be picky about their security deposit, etc.).  You do not want them walking away from your unit with any animus toward you.  They will be going through the stages of grief and will probably have periods of feeling anger toward you anyway.  They are just looking for someone else to blame so they can cope with their hurt.  If they are rude, accuse you of not caring, etc., take the high road.  Just let them say what they will and remain calm.  Thank God you are not in their shoes and be as compassionate as you can.  Your only response should be something like "I am sorry for your loss.  I understand you are hurting and I will do whatever I can to help you through this."  Never admit that you had a responsibility in this accident or that you have done anything improper or unwise.

My prayers are for them and for you as you work through this tragedy.

If this house is in Florida, this is a state that doesn't require a fence around the pool. Many homes in Florida have more of a pool area for a backyard than an actual backyard. This is a really sad accident.

I would second what someone above suggested to not offer any statements. Do not talk at length at all about the incident to anyone.

You could look into securing the pool better in the future, but again, if this is the typical Florida backyard pool set up, it might not be terribly easy.

Some municipalities have ordinances requiring safety measures such as fences around pools, etc. In your situation, I would call an attorney TODAY. Liability insurance is a great help, but you never know if the company that writes the policy will try and deny any claim due to negligence on your part. I only have one house with a pool and have no desire for more. Landlords face enough obstacles without them. One local attorney you might contact is Harry Heist.