Attorneys Ira Leesfield and Thomas Scolaro represented the family of a young girl who died of electrocution while playing miniature golf. The 11-year-old’s golf ball ended up in a small water pond, when she reached inside the pond in an attempt to retrieve her ball, she immediately started to scream. Another guest jumped to her rescue and tried to grab her by the arm to pull her out but they too became injured as soon as they touched her.
The tragedy for the family was in fact an incomprehensible act of negligence committed by the owners and employees in charge of maintenance. Leesfield Scolaro’s inspection and investigation revealed an improper replacement and installation of electrical breakers. State and local regulations mandate the use of ground fault interrupter (GFI) breakers for all water features like the pond in question. The inspection of the wiring and the electrical pump uncovered that non-GFI breakers were employed, which resulted in the water to become electrified, unbeknownst to all, including our fatally injured young client who was on vacation to celebrate her 11th birthday.
Within nine months, several inspections were conducted, lawsuit was filed, depositions were taken, and the case was settled for $10,000,000.
Leesfield Scolaro has handled several fatal electrocution cases, one of which involved the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy who was shocked while walking barefoot in a small puddle of water on the street. Upon inspection by experts, it was discovered that the wires had become live (“hot”), and this hazardous situation had gone undetected due to a lack of inspections. This lawsuit resulted in a confidential multi-million dollar compensation for the boy’s family.
In another case, Ira Leesfield secured a $5,250,000 settlement for the family of a young husband who lost his life after coming into contact with an energized lighting fixture outside his home. More recently, Thomas Scolaro obtained a confidential seven-figure settlement for the family of a young man who was shocked while performing home improvement repairs at a customer’s house. Our inspection discovered that the installation and the wiring of a new A/C unit were faulty and caused a part of the house to become electrified.
Decorative Water Fountains
Decorative fountains have been a known fixture used by many commercial outfits. They serve no use other than aesthetics. Today, one can expect decorative fountains to be found in shopping centers and malls, hotels and resorts, restaurants, casinos, office buildings, public parks, botanical gardens, zoos, museums and art galleries, civic centers, corporate campuses, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, residential developments, event venues, golf courses, corporate events, public squares, historical sites, or luxury retail stores.
Failure to perform life-saving maintenance duties results in fatalities
The US Consumer Product Safety reports that there are as many as 500 electrocution-related deaths each year, and every single one of these incidents could have been prevented.
Companies in charge of maintenance of a decorative fountain must follow specific, dedicated policies and procedures to prevent known risks and dangers to members of the public. Those include slip and falls, drowning, electrical hazards (Malfunctioning electrical components, such as lighting and pumps, will lead to electrical shocks if not properly maintained – See more on this above), waterborne illness (Stagnant water in fountains can become a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens, potentially leading to waterborne illnesses, such as legionnaire’s disease – Read more here), inadequate safety barriers, and structural failures (wear and tear can lead to structural failures in the fountain, posing dangers to the public with exposed wires)
Specifically, preventing the water from becoming electrified is a top priority, as this poses a significant, potentially lethal safety risk. Maintenance crews must perform the following checks on a regular basis to remove all dangers:
• Perform daily, weekly, and monthly inspections of the fountain’s components to identify potential electrical issues.
• Inspect and maintain electrical components, including pumps, lighting systems, control panels, and wiring to ensure they are in good working order.
• Replace damaged or worn-out electrical parts promptly to prevent electrical hazards. Those tasks must not be done in-house. Rather, when an electrical part or component is damaged, the maintenance crew must proceed with an immediate Electric System Shutdown. Warnings to members of the public must be put on display with a safety barrier to prevent physical access to the fountain. Finally, the maintenance crew must call a certified, licensed electrician to address the issue. Often times the repair will necessitate that a permit be pulled by the electrician before they can begin the work and the decorative fountain will have to be shut down for several days / weeks.
• Ensure proper grounding and bonding of all electrical components to prevent electrical leaks into the water.
• Perform daily checks on the proper functioning of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) on all electrical outlets near the fountain to quickly cut off power in case of a ground fault.
• Establish and regularly review emergency shutdown procedures to quickly cut power to the fountain in case of an electrical or safety issue.
• Have yearly inspection of all electrical systems by a licensed electrician (or more frequently if required by local regulations)
• Keep detailed records of maintenance activities, inspections, and any electrical repairs or modifications made to the fountain.
What must happen when repairs to a decorative fountain are needed?
The in-house maintenance crew must never attempt to repair the issue themselves for the following reasons:
Lack of Electrical Expertise
Maintenance crews typically do not have the specialized training and expertise required to safely and effectively repair electrical components. Attempting electrical repairs without proper knowledge can lead to further damage, electrical hazards, and even injuries.
Electrical work often requires adherence to local electrical codes and regulations. A maintenance crew may not be aware of or fully comply with these codes, potentially leading to violations and safety issues.
Complexity of Electrical Systems
Decorative fountains have intricate electrical systems that are to be handled solely by licensed electricians who have the knowledge and experience to troubleshoot and repair them safely.
Unauthorized Electrical Work
Only a licensed electrician is allowed to work an electrical system as complex as one found in decorative fountains because they pose risks to other people in the vicinity, such as visitors or other staff members.
A faulty repair job could compromise the overall electrical integrity of the fountain, potentially creating a more dangerous situation.
It’s The Law
Electrical repairs must be carried out by licensed electricians to ensure compliance with legal and safety requirements.