On August 4, 2015, a 33-year-old man was found floating lifeless under water in an outdoor pool in Triftern, Lower Bavaria.

The lifeguard who was summoned rescued him and tried to revive him.

However, the man died in hospital two days later.

Karen Truscheit

Editor in the “Germany and the World” department.

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When the man was discovered by bathers, the lifeguard was in his lifeguard's cottage.

Should he always have stood at the edge of the pool?

From where he was, could he see everything?

Would he have needed further support on this summer's day with many guests?

In a judgment on Thursday, the Munich Higher Regional Court was unable to identify any breach of duty by the lifeguard or the operator of the swimming pool.

And thus the appeal of the relatives against the dismissal of their lawsuit by the Landshut District Court in November 2020 was rejected.

A claim for damages is therefore not given.

The court thus agrees with the first judgment: A lifeguard does not have to stand at the edge of the pool the whole time in order to fulfill his duty of supervision.

No obligation for complete observation

And one person was sufficient for supervision on the day of the accident, even if the exact number of bathers could not be determined. "Even if 400 guests were assumed", a lifeguard was enough. The plaintiffs did not prove that there were so many bathers on site on the day of the accident that the deployment of a second lifeguard would have been necessary.

The Higher Regional Court also states that a lifeguard does not have "the obligation to continuously monitor every swimmer". However, there is an obligation to "regular inspections" to monitor the bathing operation for "hazardous situations for the bathers". The location must be chosen so that "the entire swimming and jumping area can be monitored and you can also look into the water", if necessary you have to change the location more often. It is true that one could possibly discover "abnormalities under the water surface" more easily at the edge of the pool. But at the edge of the pool, the supervisor could miss things outside the pool.

According to the Higher Regional Court, the defendant lifeguard, who stayed briefly in the lifeguard cabin to examine a water sample, was allowed to do so: When standing or sitting, the window “in principle has a very good view” of the pool.

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