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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Riptide Drownings At City Beach

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The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a city’s public swimming area creates a duty to warn the public of certain dangerous conditions.

The Court determined that a jury, under these circumstances, should be permitted to decide whether the city knew or should have known of the riptide at the city beach and whether it breached its duty of care by not warning of the danger it created.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a city’s public swimming area creates a duty to warn the public of certain dangerous conditions.

A woman and her rescuer drowned after being caught in a riptide at or near a public beach. The city’s public beach had many of the typical beach facilities, such as, restrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, metered parking and a place to rent beach equipment. There was no lifeguard, but there were also no signs warning of the dangers of swimming at that location.

The Court determined that a jury, under these circumstances, should be permitted to decide whether the city knew or should have known of the riptide at the city beach and whether it breached its duty of care by not warning of the danger it created.

I view this important decision by the Florida Supreme Court to be a logical extension of the general rule that once a city decides to operate a swimming facility, it is obligated to operate it safely.

As would be expected, beach communities in Florida have taken note of this court decision.

“In the Breaux vs. Miami Beach case, it was determined that because the municipality licensed concessioners and had metered parking generating income to the city, Miami Beach was liable for the safety of swimmers in public swimming areas.” These are the reported words of Edwin Peck, town attorney for North Redington Beach, Florida, according to the Beach Beacon.

“Peck suggested the elimination of the profit factor to minimize North Redington Beach’s future liability in lieu of the precedent set by Breaux vs. Miami Beach. Currently the town licenses only two concessioners at $50 per annual license. This would be a negligible reduction in revenue to the town of $100 a year.”

“Another suggestion to reduce the town’s liability was signage. The prospect of riptide flags and warning signs at the beach access were contemplated. Possible wording for signs included, “Swim at your own risk. No lifeguard on duty” along with lightning warnings for tourists unaware of local hazards.”

In my opinion, the most responsible step for a city to take would be to follow the last comment of Peck and to erect proper signage to warn persons unaware of local hazards. That may not improve the beauty of the beach, but it would give tourists a reasonable chance to survive their vacations to the Sunshine State.