Residents say pond should be fenced
Updated On: Apr 28 2014 08:42:25 PM EDT
It was a tragic scene Sunday in a Northside neighborhood, where a man drowned in a retention pond after going underwater and never resurfacing, according to police.
Officers searched for Giovanny Paredes in a pond in the Daybreak Woods neighborhood. Paredes' body was pulled out hours later.
It's still unclear how he drowned.
Residents said they're concerned about the pond because of how close it is to the houses and the lack of fencing around it.
Eric Ragatz, a family law and personal injury lawyer, said these types of situations happen often, but addressing the issue of liability can be complicated.
"I can tell you at this juncture there's not a simple answer because it's highly variable in the facts," Ragatz said. "Generally there's not a blanket rule to protect every body of water in the state of Florida. That would be impracticable and just couldn't be done."
Ragatz said the homeowners association, management company and landowner have two main duties: first is to maintain a safe condition, and second is to warn everyone of any known dangerous conditions that aren't obvious.
Ragatz said a pond like the one where Paredes drowned could obviously be a danger, but he said things like the depth of water or drainage pipes are not so obvious, and that is something the landowner or homeowners association must warn people about.
Ragatz said if a child were involved in the incident, the scenario could change, classifying it as an attractive nuisance, which essentially means the landowner could be held responsible if the child were to trespass on the land and get hurt.
The St. Johns River Water Management District said it sold the retention pond to the the homeowners association in 2005. Even still, it said the homeowners association would possibly have to get permission from each homeowner to build a fence.
The homeowners association that manages Daybreak Woods said the land underneath the water is owned by each individual homeowner, which means, it's up to each one of those property owners to put their own fence up.
But Ragatz said the homeowners association has responsibilities to keep people safe.
"If the homeowners or HOA or operators knew that kids were going in and it was a problem, they could have a duty to either put signs, warn parents or possibly fence it," Ragatz said.
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