Child Falls from 3-Meter Diving Board Resulting in Catastrophic Injury and 5 Million Dollar Jury Award


During the evening of June 18, 1999, a family of two parents and their two children went to the Woodrow Wilson High School swimming pool for family swim night. During the family swim activities, the 10-year-old child repeatedly used the 3 meter diving board, with the approval and encouragement of one or both parents.

Sometime between 8:00 PM and 8:45 PM, the 10-year-old child slipped and fell off the 3-meter diving board and landed on the swimming pool deck causing him to suffer a traumatic skull fracture and possible brain damage.

At the time of the incident, there were 17 patrons in or around the swimming pool, with two Lifeguard personnel on duty. The Lifeguards responded to the incident, called 9-1-1 and immobilized the child on a backboard until the arrival of Fire Department EMS personnel.

Prior to the incident, the Woodrow Wilson High School swimming pool was appropriately staffed with 2 Lifeguards with 17 patrons in or around the water. When the incident occurred, one Lifeguard was in the office, while the other Lifeguard was on the deck of the main pool providing surveillance to patrons in, on and around the water. The Lifeguard personnel were certified through the American Red Cross in Lifeguard Training, Community First Aid, and CPR for the Professional Rescuer. In addition, one Lifeguard was also certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Prior to the incident, the 10-year-old child repeatedly used, without incident, the 3-meter diving board under the encouragement and supervision of one or both parents. The incident was not caused by any defect in the diving board or its frame, nor by any breach in the Standard of Care of the Lifeguard personnel. We believe the cause of this incident was entirely accidental, with a contributing factor being the physical exhaustion of the child from continuously climbing and using the 3-meter diving board. The child lost his footing which resulted in his fall from the diving board to the swimming pool deck below causing his injuries.

This unintentional injury occurred as a result of the improper and inappropriate use of the 3 meter diving board by the 10-year-old child under the supervision of one or both of his parents. The only way the Lifeguard personnel of the Woodrow Wilson High School swimming pool could have prevented this incident would have been to prohibit the child from using this particular diving board. While the child was using the diving board, he was under the direct supervision of his parents who should have prohibited him from either using the diving board, or from using it inappropriately.

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation appropriately staffed this facility with certified Lifeguard, First Aid, CPR and EMT personnel. Facility Rules and Regulations were appropriately developed, posted and enforced. The Diving Boards were appropriately designed and installed with the railings of the 3-meter diving board extending to the end of the deck area.

The specifications outlined in Public Swimming Pools: Recommended Regulations for Design and Construction, Operation and Maintenance, Section D-8: Diving Area Requirements and Diving Boards, were all appropriately complied with.

Section D-8.02
The height above the diving board was not a factor in this incident.

Section D-8.04
The lateral distance from the 3-meter board to the 1-meter board was not a factor in this incident.

Section D-8.05
The diving board framework was appropriately anchored to the deck and the diving board was appropriately secured to the frame.

Section D-8.06
The handrails were appropriately designed into the 3-meter diving platform and these handrails extended to the front edge of the swimming pool deck.

The Lifeguard personnel of the District of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department acted appropriately to safeguard the patrons using the Woodrow Wilson High School Swimming Pool. Lifeguard Protective Services were provided with certified Lifeguard, First Aid and CPR personnel. Rules and regulations were established, posted and enforced by Lifeguard and Management personnel. Lifeguard and Management personnel appropriately responded to the incident and effectively immobilized the child to a backboard. Their fast and appropriate response most likely prevented further catastrophic injury from occurring as a result of this traumatic incident.

This case went to trial during April 2003 and resulted in a 5 million dollar verdict against the District of Columbia.

Print Article