There is an interesting criminal case in Connecticut that falls on the borderline between criminal law and torts. The president of a residential pool company was criminally charged with manslaughter for the death of six-year-old Zachary Cohn, who drowned after having his arm caught in a pool drain. Prosecutors allege that David Lionetti, president of Shoreline Pools, knew of the problem with the drain. This is only the latest tragic death involving such drains in pools, click here.
There have been civil lawsuits in the past years over these dangers and one has already been filed in this case. However, the use of criminal charges remains novel. Here it is based on presumed knowledge of the danger and failure to address the problem. He could face 10 years in prison.
An affidavit in the case alleges that Lionetti knew of the problem, click here. It states that Bthe New England Pool and Spa Professionals, a trade group, sent his company, Shoreline Pools, various alerts and information about the tougher safety guidelines on pool design. More importantly, this danger is well known in the industry. These cases are all too common and reflect a failure in federal and state regulation, click here. There have been 150 injuries tied to pool drains reported in the country since 1985 — a high number since most such incidents are likely not reported because the child was able to be rescued in time. There have been 48 deaths and there are some cases where organs have been literally sucked out of the bodies of child who are pulled against these powerful drains, click here.
In the case of Zachary Cohn, he drowned after his arm became stuck in an intake valve in the deep end of the family’s in-ground pool on July 26, 2007. The lawsuit by the parents alleges that the pool
violated safety code requirements.
Three days before his arrest, Lionetti’s warehouse was destroyed in a fire.
For the full story, click here.
3 thoughts on “Pool Company President Criminally Charged in Death of Six-Year-Old Boy From Drain Accident”
It is a sad case that is going to sadder for the company official.
From the article:
“In issuing the warrant for Lionetti’s arrest, law enforcement officials state that he failed to have his company install mandated safety devices in the Cohn family pool.”
If these devices were legally mandated and not merely recommended by the trade group. I believe that Lionetti’s action may amount to depraved indifference–likely for profit– and he may well be undercharged:
“to bring defendant’s conduct within the murder statute, the People were required to establish also that defendant’s act was imminently dangerous and presented a very high risk of death to others and that it was committed under circumstances which evidenced a wanton indifference to human life or a depravity of mind. . . . . The crime differs from intentional murder in that it results not from a specific, conscious intent to cause death, but from an indifference to or disregard of the risks attending defendant’s conduct.” People v. Register, 60 NY2d at 274.
I think that could be proven here to the satisfaction of a jury given the age of teh victim and the likely ease of compliance.
Sad, sad case. I don’t know how I would react if my 6 year old child had been killed in this manner. If the company president had indeed been warned of the danger and had been informed of the correction that was needed, he might have a criminal problem to be concerned with. It sounds similar to the Ford gas tank explosion cases. Was that the Ford Pinto that had a tendency to explode when hit in an accident? I will be interested in following this case to hear how the criminal action turns out. The pool president should be worried. And if the allegations are true, I hope he pays for his crime(s). And what is up with the suspicious fire at his warehouse? Maybe a little desruction of evidence??
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