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 beach

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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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