Who’s Responsible for These Swimmers’ Deaths?

Did these beach-goers go in the ocean at their own risks, or did the city of Miami Beach have a duty to warn swimmers of danger? You be the judge.

By Robin Gerber
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine July 2006

Miami beachiStock/Thinkstock

The Verdict:

The Florida Supreme Court made clear that Miami Beach was running the beach on 29th Street as a public swimming area. The city was responsible for the beach and water activities.

The court added that by supplying amenities, especially beach rentals, the city influenced people’s selection of that area for swimming. The public was led to believe that swimming was allowed—signs or no signs. The court even went so far as to say that Miami Beach knew people were swimming there and as a result had provided access from the boardwalk as well as beach facilities, such as showers. The city, whether it admitted it or not, was running a swimming area at the 29th Street beach, and had a duty to warn swimmers of the possible dangers.

Years passed since Israel Poleyeff and Frederica Breaux lost their spouses, and a settlement from Miami Beach seems likely. Lifeguards are now posted at the 29th Street beach, and the city’s website provides information on rip currents. Two more Poleyeff grandchildren have been born, one named for Eugenie. And Zachary Breaux’s album, the one that put him on the Billboard chart, is still for sale. The last song on the CD is called “I Love This Life.”

Was justice served? Should the city be liable for these deaths? Sound off in the comments.

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  • Your Comments

    • Anonymous

      Beaches have a duty to make clear what is allowed, what isn’t allowed, and what the risks are.

    • jhg6

      The ocean is very dangerous everywhere! How could anyone go swimming in the ocean, and not expect to encounter a riptide, or some other hazard? I wear my life jacket when I am in the ocean. It will at least help a bit, should I encounter a riptide (which a person should never try to swim against).

      • slconfidential

        I’m from Miami and was at the beach. Got in the water chest deep and felt this incredible force pulling me. I don’t know how to swim, so that is why I only would go so far in. I tried not to panic, but I did turn a certain way…and I was out of danger.

    • http://www.cheeseland.com hai, I like cheese :)

      Phew! I thought the cheese would have died but my mistake, THE CHEESE LIVED! YAAAAAAAAAAY! HURRAY FOR DEH CHEESE!

    • Middle School

      H S – No, the city is not responsible because they swam at their own risk.
      R B – We agree with the verdict. Because they should have put up signs since they knew people were swimming. They should have also warned them about the current and had lifeguards at the beach.
      J C – Yes, they should have put up signs to say they were swimming at their own risk.

    • myOWNcompass

      In my town, when there are no lifeguards available off season or after hours, large signs are prominently displayed that Say This, along with “swim at your own risk”. It’s not that difficult to do.

    • my2cents

      What ever happened to personal responsibility. When something awful happens we look way to quickly for who we can sue. This is a huge example of a court feeding this frenzy. Why should a city ever provide ANY amenities if they can be held responsible?

    • dela10

      That’s a lot of beaches/water and the city can’t be in charge of every swimmer or beach. Those 2 people were taking a great risk, no one knows when there’s going to be a riptide

    • nik danger

      one word … implied risk.
      If you go swimming in the ocean you run the risk of drowning,if you walk down the sidewalk you run the risk of tripping and injuring yourself.
      Life is all about risks.
      Florida courts:FAIL

      • http://www.cheeseland.com hai, I like cheese :)

        How could u? idk wat u said but, CARE FOR DEH CHEESE >:(