Each year, approximately 50 children drown or die from open or unprotected septic tanks and many others are seriously injured. In Massachusetts, while a three-year-old boy was playing in a back yard he sat on the lid of a septic tank and it gave way causing the toddler to fall into the septic system and drown. When the emergency response team arrived, the firefighter rested his foot on the lid of the septic tank and the lid flipped open. An investigation showed that the lid of the septic tank was chipped and loosely attached. The property owner, as well as the septic tank manufacturer, installer, and inspector of the septic system were all named in the lawsuit. It was determined that the septic sewer cover was defective and the jury awarded over $21 million due to the good work of their Massachusetts counsel in this wrongful death lawsuit.
In Montana, a young boy also fell into a septic well while playing in his neighborhood. In that case it was determined that the septic system was placed too close to the driveway and failed to have what is known as a "kid catcher" safety device at the opening of the tank. The "kid catcher" device is a piece of plastic that costs approximately $10, and prevents a child from falling into an open septic system where they could drown. Earlier this year, in Lakewood New Jersey, a 2 year-old girl also drowned after she fell into a septic tank in a backyard.
Because of the high risk of injuries or death to children that septic tanks pose, there are strict safety features and standards designed to prevent these tragic accidents. Unfortunately, the standards and guidelines are not always followed by the manufacturers or installers. In addition, many homes or properties have old or unused septic tanks that are unmarked or covered with grass, weeds, fallen tree branches or brush and are not visible until it is too late. There have also been incidences where the septic tank covers, like man hole covers, have been stolen and sold for scrap metal.
Property owners, manufacturers and septic tank installers all need to become a little more diligent when it comes to septic tank safety. Also, if you purchase a new home or rent a property, check to make sure there is not an old, unused septic tank hidden somewhere on the property under debris that could potentially cause an injury or death to anyone who steps on it.
If you or your child has been injured after falling in a septic tank, well, manhole or storm sewer please feel free to contact one of our experienced premise liability lawyers at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.