Premises Liability and Pool Safety: Virginia Graeme Baker Act Enforced in Illinois…Maybe?

The Chicago and South Chicago Premises Liability Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe want to reiterate some issues in pool safety. While swimming outdoors in not an option in Chicago winters, high school and college athletic swim teams and clubs are in full swing making issues of pool safety relevant in all seasons. In past articles, we noted the number and frequency of death and severe injuries caused by the suction produced by underwater drains in pools and hot tubs. The Act, effective December 2008, applies to all public pools and spas in the country, including community association pools. The Act was named for the 7-year old daughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III, who drowned when she was trapped by a powerful hot tub drain in 2002. We noted the number and frequency of death and severe injuries caused by the suction produced by underwater drains in pools and hot tubs. The Act, effective December 2008, applies to all public pools and spas in the country, including community association pools. The problem has been the implementation of the Act in the face of a severe shortage of inspectors and engineers to address compliance and enforcement. Now the gravity of these shortages effects the safety of pools in Illinois and Chicago.

The State of Illinois has ordered the emptying and closure of pools at the Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools for non compliance with an order issued in 2010(Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2011) that the schools install drains as mandated by the Act. Apparently the district submitted a plan for compliance to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) engineers in August of 2011. The first plans were rejected without clarification on what issues needed correction other than the plans were not signed and sealed by an engineer (district records indicate differently). The district resubmitted the plans but still received no feedback from IDPH. According to the IDPH website, it can take up to 8 weeks to receive a response. To add bureaucratic insult to injury-once the plan is reviewed and approved by IDPH and the go ahead issued for the installation of the new drainage system- the district is required to publicize a request for bids on the project; obtain three “non political” bids, and submit the bids through the school board committees and school board. Sounds like the real sucking drain is in bureaucracy!

As Chicago and Berwyn Premises Liability Lawyers for over 25 years Grazian and Volpe has litigated on behalf of thousands of victims of accidents, workplace injuries, motor vehicle and truck accidents, nursing home neglect and premises liability. Wrongful deaths and serious injuries caused by negligence and disregard for safety practices and standards are the most senseless and tragic.

Here, we have a case where the safety of children has been threatened by our own state government neglecting to enforce federal mandates. The State of Illinois and the district may quibble about who is at fault but it still raises the question of why it took over two years for the State to inform the district that it was not in compliance and needed to install a new drainage system by the State’s October 1st deadline. And if the State was truly concerned-why didn’t they respond to the the proposed plans? Both the State and the school district appear to have lapsed in their duties to the public. We doubt that this is an isolated case.

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Grazian & Volpe, Part of the Lloyd Miller Law Group