The evisceration of a 6-year-old Minnesota girl has brought suction entrapment to the forefront of the national press and will likely speed passage of the first national pool and spa safety law.
On June 29, Abigail Taylor became entrapped in a wading pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club.
?The drain at the bottom of the wading pool was uncovered,? said Robert Bennett, the Taylor family?s attorney. ?She slipped and fell, and a seal was formed.? He said that a 2-inch hole was torn in her rectum and most of her intestines were lost in the evisceration. Doctors had to remove the rest in surgery.
Bennett wouldn?t offer specifics, but said he believes the family will take legal action. ?Both pool [equipment manufacturer] and operators are jointly liable,? Bennett said. He added that the drain was made by Sta-Rite, which has lost past cases, including a $104 million verdict in 2003 that was eventually overturned and settled.
The incident has received extensive press coverage, including an episode on a cable-TV news program. As a result, the first national pool/spa safety law is attracting widespread attention again.
The Pool & Spa Safety Act inspired in part by a 2002 entrapment incident originally was introduced in both legislative bodies last year. While the U.S. Senate version passed, the House bill died in the session?s final hours. It was reintroduced in the House in March 2007.
If passed, the House and Senate bills would allow states to receive grant money by passing their own pool and spa safety laws, as long as they meet certain criteria for addressing drowning and entrapment hazards. The bills would pertain to new and existing pools.
The legislation has moved swiftly. Two weeks after Taylor?s entrapment, a Senate bill was reintroduced. The bill?s language has passed through committee and awaits a full hearing.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of three Minnesota Congress members who added their names to the bill, amended it to state that all commercial pools must be updated for safety within a year after the law passes in the state that applies.
?The Abigail Taylor tragedy is just another example of how overdue the need for pool safety legislation is,? said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who authored the House bill.
The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals supports the bills, for the most part. APSP plans to negotiate with the bill?s authors to change the language so it matches APSP?s recently released entrapment standard, which states that dual main drains and the anti-entrapment drain covers are sufficient. Currently, APSP thinks it is too much to require states to include safety vacuum release systems, suction-limiting vents and gravity drainage systems or automatic shut-off systems in addition to dual main drains and anti-entrapment drain covers.
Wasserman Schultz doesn?t expect to change the bill. ?It?s something we?re discussing with [APSP], but not something I currently favor,? she said. ?I think the standard in the bill is stronger.?