ISR on Unexpected Drowning Risks

March 03, 2017 | JoAnn Barnett, ISR SMI
Tags: Lawsuits, Water Safety

Infant Swimming Resource has seen an emergence of lawsuits arising due to the loss of life while using flotation devices like “floaties” as opposed to a USCG approved life vest and/or survival swimming instruction.  These lawsuits, among other claims, allege that water wing type toys either failed structurally or, due to their design in the case of “swim balloon aides,” held the victim face down and prevented life-saving maneuvers.  

These lawsuits underscore the importance of parents understanding that there is no substitute for constant adult supervision. Infant Swimming Resource advocates a “multiple layers of defense” strategy to prevent the most prominent cause of accidental death for children under the age of 4: drowning.  For more information on these layers of defense please visit our ISR Aquatic Safety Page here:

Similarly, ISR has become aware of several lawsuits brought against prominent cruise lines by a families who tragically lost young children to drowning while on cruises. While absolutely heartbreaking, the details of these lawsuits are a grim yet important reminder: when a family’s normal routine is broken, the safeguards built into even the most conscientious family’s water safety plan can fail a young child with devastating results.  

Perhaps the best example of the dangers to little ones when not in their home environment came to light recently in one such suit, brought by a family who lost their young son while on a cruise returning from Cozumel to Miami. This case specifically underscores the incidence of drownings aboard cruise lines in the context of many cruise lines not employing lifeguards, thusly, "Numerous children have died or been grievously injured recently onboard cruise ships due to drowning or near drowning prior to this incident, yet Carnival does not even spend a single penny on utilizing lifeguards onboard its ships to prevent these tragedies." And indeed, there are a multitude of lawsuits citing the loss of young children due to a lack of supervision and/or the children having the skills to save themselves.

In addition to the environmental dangers above, there are a host of dangers associated with  swimming pools and spas, but the structural aspects of the pool/spa aren’t usually the top concern for parents. However, over the past 10 years there have been numerous lawsuits brought against manufacturers of pool drains as a result of deaths as well as serious injuries resulting from entanglement, and in at least two cases, disembowelment.  

While the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act mandates domed pool drains, as opposed to the “flat” drains that can cause tremendous suction and thereby trap children to the bottom of the pool, Infant Swimming Resource wants to remind parents that this Act is only a mandate for public pools stating: All public pools and spas, both new and existing, shall be equipped with drain covers compliant with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007 standard. Parents should be aware that there may be a tremendous number of private pools (and still many public/commercial pools) have drains whose design would not prevent entanglement.

We know the water can be a wonderful source of recreation, but ISR hopes that we can encourage parents to recognize potential dangers for their children in unfamiliar aquatic environments.