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Could makers of faulty pool alarms be liable for kids drowning?

There are many devices that people use to prevent injuries or even fatal accident when it comes to using a product. But what happens if that device is faulty or defective?

It seems that a debate has been sparked over whether swimming pools and hot tubs need alarms. Pools are not inherently dangerous products, but there have been reports of children drowning in pools. One state has enacted a law that requires new pools and hot tubs be installed with an alarm.

The law was instituted after a toddler drowned in a pool almost two years ago. If something or someone gets into the water and weighs more than 15 pounds, the alarm goes off.

Those who support the alarm requirement believe that the alarms will help prevent children from drowning. The alarm would alert adults nearby that someone is in the pool. However those who are skeptical are not sure whether the alarms will make a difference. Does the alarm just give a false sense of security?

What about products like large blow up pools or pools at apartment complexes? Currently the law does not require these types of pools to have alarms. But should they or should there be certain exemptions?

Another question that is raised is what happens if the alarms malfunction? Suppose a family owns a large pool; one day the young son accidentally falls in the pool and the alarm is defective. If the son dies, who is liable for the accident? Is it the alarm manufacturer? Had the alarm properly sounded, perhaps the father would have realized the son was in the water and been able to save him before he drowned.

This is currently speculation since the state's law has just taken effect and it is too soon to tell what sort of impact it will have on pool drowning rates. But this type of law could be something that other states may consider.

Source: The Tennessean online, "New pools, hot tubs must have alarms to protect against children drowning," Scott Broden, 31 January 2011

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