Child died tragically after being electrocuted in swimming pool
Attorneys and Family calling for mandatory inspections and appropriate recalls
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 24, 2014) – A wrongful death complaint was filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County on behalf of the family of seven-year-old Calder Sloan, who was electrocuted on April 13, 2014 while swimming in his family’s swimming pool due to a faulty pool light and electrical grounding and bonding on the pool’s lighting system, announced Coral Gables-based law firm Colson Hicks Eidson.
The lawsuit was filed against Defendant Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Minnesota and authorized dealers and service centers in the state of Florida; Defendant All Florida Pool & Spa Center, a Florida corporation; Defendant Gary B Electric and Construction Consultant, Inc. a Florida corporation; and Defendant Jorge Perez Enterprises, Inc. a/k/a JP Enterprises Inspection Company, a Florida corporation.
According to the complaint, Defendant Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Inc. manufactured and designed the pool light and its constituent parts that electrocuted and killed Calder Sloan. Defendant All Florida Pool & Spa Center provided weekly cleaning, maintenance and inspections of the pool in which Calder Sloan died. Defendant Jorge Perez Enterprises, Inc. was retained to inspect the Sloan’s home and pool’s electrical system in August 2009 when the home was purchased. Defendant Gary B Electric and Construction Consultant, Inc. was retained to do electrical work on the Sloan’s home in October 2009, including replacing the main electrical panels, grounding the pool’s pump and removing a pole light on the pool deck.
The complaint alleges that Defendant Pentair was negligent and failed to use reasonable care when designing, manufacturing, testing, inspecting and marketing the pool light and its constituent parts, including the pool light’s thermal protection sensor, to prevent failure, overheating, and ultimately, electrocution. Among a host of breaches outlined in the complaint, Pentair failed to design the shell of the pool light so that it would not conduct current into the water in the event the light overheated or shorted and failed to design a one-shot “fail safe” switch to shut down the circuit or a resettable device that would fail safe in the event of a ground fault or overheating condition. The complaint further alleges Pentair marketed and sold the light in Florida as a low voltage fixture.
Defendant All Florida Pool & Spa Center is alleged to have failed to use reasonable care in the inspection and maintenance of the pool and its equipment and failed to adequately warn the Sloan family of any known hazards and defects with the pool light and the home’s grounding system. Defendant Jorge Perez Enterprises, Inc. is alleged to have failed to use reasonable care in the inspection and re-inspection of the home to ensure the electrical safety of all its electrical components. Defendant Gary B Electric and Construction is alleged to have failed to use reasonable care in the inspection, installation, and repair of the home’s electrical components, including the installation of the new electrical panels and the pool pump’s grounding rod and removal of the pool deck’s pole light, to ensure the electrical system was properly grounded and bonded.
“Electrical mistakes in a pool are serious and can lead to the death of innocent children,” said a Colson Hicks Eidson attorney, counsel for the Sloan family who filed the lawsuit. “Our initial investigation reveals the light’s electrical cord was thermally compromised by the shell of the light overheating. This could not occur absent a defect in the thermal protection device or failure to design the light with an adequate thermal shutoff. Thermal protection is critical since Pentair designs the light so that installers wrap the cord around the light fixture once the light is submerged. Overheating can cause electrical current to energize the shell of the light, magnifying deadly current in the pool. In this case it killed Calder Sloan, a kind-hearted, energetic and talented little boy now known to the World as “Mr. Awesome.” It has completely devastated his family. We hope this case results in greater awareness and care with respect to electrical work and older pool light designs that do not fail safely. This type of tragedy was preventable and should never happen again. Mandatory inspections and appropriate recalls or industry bulletins may prevent such senseless tragedies from occurring again.”
Calder’s death stunned many and made national and international headlines. His famous “Mr. Awesome” self-portrait went viral and has been shared around the world, including appearing on the Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square, with many celebrities and everyday people wanting to spread awareness. Calder’s family started a website to share his legacy, www.calderslegacy.com/poolsafety/, and to warn people of the dangers associated with swimming pools and home wiring. His story has resulted in thousands of people around America getting their pools inspected and repaired. More than $100,000 has been donated to Calder’s Legacy Charity benefitting his school, Lehrman Community Day School.
“We were told by Calder’s teachers that he would change the world one day,” said Chris Sloan, Calder’s father. “He is saving lives by raising nationwide awareness to the dangers of poor electrical wiring in pools and homes that in our case had fatal and tragic consequences. We hope Calder’s story continues to be heard and serves as a deterrent so that this type of preventable accident never happens to anyone else. It is our long-term goal to pursue changes in laws, building codes, and inspections to ensure no other family suffers this unfathomable tragedy.”
Unfortunately, Calder’s case is not an isolated incident. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website, incidents involving underwater pool lighting are more numerous than those involving any other consumer product used in or around pools, spas, and hot tubs. In 2003, CPSC and the American Red Cross issued a warning of electrocution dangers to swimmers noting that there have been 60 deaths and nearly 50 serious shocks reported over the past 13 years involving electrical hazards in and around swimming pools.
Two weeks following Calder’s death, three children were shocked while swimming at a Miami condominium complex involving an ungrounded pool pump. Fortunately the three children involved survived. Last year, a 27-year old man died from electrocution in a pool at a Hilton hotel in Houston due to a short in the pool light and poor electrical work. In another incident, an 11-year old girl was electrocuted while trying to retrieve a ball from a pond at a time-share resort miniature golf course near Orlando in which building department officials say may have been caused by a possible faulty pump connected to the wrong circuit breaker.
“We are proud of our son’s life spirit and the impact he has had worldwide,” added Sloan. However, it does not take away from the fact that our family and friends have lost an amazing boy with potential to share with the world over his lifetime and generations to come. There are no words strong enough to describe the sense of devastation and sadness we have that our wonderful son, Calder, was robbed of his opportunity to live a long and fruitful life and that his brother will no longer share the powerful brotherly love, friendship, and camaraderie that they had with each other.”
Daniel J. Santaniello of Florida-based Luks, Santaniello, Petrillo & Jones, is serving as co-counsel for the Sloan family.
For more information on Calder’s legacy, visit http://calderslegacy.com/poolsafety/. To view Calder’s tribute video, visit http://vimeo.com/92452244.
About Colson Hicks Eidson
The Law Firm of Colson Hicks Eidson is a trial firm with more than 40 years of experience handling local, national and international litigation. Partners at the firm have had the distinction of holding the following offices: President of the 60,000-member American Association for Justice; President of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers; President of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; President of the Dade County Bar Association; President of the Miami-Dade Florida Association of Women Lawyers; United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Chairman of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. For more information, call 305.476.7400.