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Lawsuit Filed After 7-Year-Old Encino Boy Drowns in Spa


The Los Angeles Daily News reports that relatives of a 7-year-old boy who died in 2016 after being pulled unconscious from a backyard spa at the family’s Encino rental home filed a lawsuit against the landlord, a real estate company, and the manufacturers of the spa’s pump for his death.

Details of the Suction Entrapment Lawsuit

The plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Monday are the child’s father and mother, Pascal Rozmiarek and Jorgeth Caparida; his minor brother and twin sister; the boy’s grandmother, Nelita Caparida; and his mother’s cousin, Ronelo Catog Sugcay.

They allege the boy was a victim of “suction entrapment,” which causes a person to be sucked by powerful force against a spa drain, making it difficult to break free or to be rescued.

“Many children have died and been catastrophically injured as a result of suction entrapment,” the suit states. The suit names as defendants the home’s owner, Brian G. Duffy; Rodeo Realty Inc., which represented the boy’s family in connection with the rental of the home; and Pentair Aquatic Systems, which made the spa pump.

The suit alleges premises liability, negligence, and products liability.

Details of the Boy’s Death

According to the complaint, the boy, a good swimmer, entered the spa while his relatives were in the back yard and while his mother watched him on Nov. 5, 2016.

“Thomas went underwater, in the vicinity of the spa drain, and his arm was sucked into the drain,” according to the lawsuit. “Thomas could not pull himself off of the drain because of the strong suction.”

Family members could not save the boy and turn off the pump, and also called 911, the suit states. The child’s father came after the boy was freed from the suction in the spa.

“By this time, Thomas was unconscious and it was too late to save him,” the complaint says.

The boy was pronounced dead at 1:13 a.m. Nov. 6, 2016, said Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

About the Pump Cited in the Lawsuit

The Pentair Intelliflo pump that Duffy bought for the spa in about 2011 was the company’s best and most expensive pump, equipped with a 3 hp motor that “creates a great deal of suction,” according to the complaint.

The pump did had no safety vacuum release system, which was developed by Pentair and can shut off a pump when a suction entrapment situation is occurring, the suit states.

“Although there was a version of the Intelliflo pump that included SVRS, the version Mr. Duffy bought did not,” according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges the pump sold to Duffy was defective because it lacked the suction detection feature.

The cost to Pentair to add the feature “is not substantial and pales in comparison to the life-saving benefits of SVRS,” the suit states. The suit further states Duffy and Rodeo Realty were negligent because the cover was not big enough to cover the whole drain.

Many newer pools and spas have dual drains that reduce the chance of suction entrapment when compared with single-drain spas such as the one in which the boy died, the suit states.

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