In The News: April 2005

Court Reverses Sta-Rite Decision

The Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals recently reversed a $104 million judgment against Wisconsinbased Sta-Rite Industries, saying the amount was "shockingly excessive." The court also reversed the decision that found Sta-Rite 80 percent liable when deciding who, between Sta-Rite, the pool owner and the maintenance company, was most liable for the accident, according to court documents.

The ruling overturned the results of the 2003 suit against Sta-Rite in StaRite Industries vs. Lewis J. Levey. The suit stems from an incident in 2000, when 14-year-old Lorenzo Peterson reached into a main drain and got stuck for 12 minutes in a North Miami, Fla., apartment building swimming pool after his friend had removed the loose protective grate of the drain. Peterson could not be extricated from the drain until rescuers broke into a shack to turn off the pump's electric power. He suffered brain damage that left him in a permanent vegetative state until he died in 2004.

After the incident, Peterson's representatives brought claims against Roberta Segal, the owner of the Village Apartments; All Florida Distributors, the firm hired to maintain and operate the pool; and StaRite, the manufacturer of the pool pump. The first two defendants settled for $4 million and $3 million respectively.

In the 2003 personal injury trial, the jury found that Sta-Rite was 80 percent liable, saying its pumps were poorly designed and that the company didn't properly warn pool users about the dangers of the drain if it were to become exposed. The jury assigned the remaining 20 percent of liability to Village Apartments. The maintenance company was not found liable.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals concluded that this verdict "cannot stand." Although the jury believes StaRite failed to warn swimming pool users about the dangers of an improperly maintained grate, the jury stated that this could not be held against the company because in the past, Segal relayed information directly to All Florida and All Florida already knew of the risks involved and didn't fix the grate in time to avoid the accident, according to court documents.

The court also found that in this case, the issues of liability and damages are so intertwined, that a retrial will be required for both.

"This was a terrible and tragic accident," says Jim Green, assistant general council for Sta-Rite. "While that remains the focus of attention for all involved, the jury's verdict in the case was correctly set aside by the Court of Appeals. We look forward to bringing this matter to a close and continuing our efforts to ensure this type of accident does not occur again."

ThermoSpas To Sell Through Dealers

Since 1995, Wallingford, Conn.-based ThermoSpas has sold its hot tubs direct to consumers. Citing time zone differences as its motivating factor, the company is now selling its hot tubs in states west of the Rockies through dealers.

"The plan is simple," says Andrew Tournas, president. "We hope to rapidly accelerate our growth by partnering with well-established hot tub dealers in the West."

The company is also planning to unveil a new national advertising campaign to help support new dealers. The advertising includes fourcolor, full-page ads in Time, Yankee, Newsweek, Playboy, Better Homes & Gardens, US News & World Report, Kiplingers, USA Today, New York Times Sunday Magazine and Washington Post Sunday Magazine. The company is also purchasing advertising on NBC, CNBC, HGTV, Fine Living, Lifetime, Oxygen and the Outdoor Living Channel.

"We already generate thousands of leads in states where we are not currently active," says Tournas. "Now, with a national ad campaign, we expect to increase our leads west of the Rockies 20 fold and will be able to pass these sales on to our new dealer partners."

Aquatic Health Conference Rescheduled 

The World Aquatic Health Conference has been rescheduled for Sept. 19-21, and will be held in Anaheim, Calif., according to the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the Institute of Technology. The show was originally scheduled for March 11-13, in Tralee, Ireland, but has been moved due to low European participation.

"This was going to be our first conference held outside the United States after a highly successful conference last October in Atlanta," says Thomas Lachocki, CEO of the NSPF. "We will [now] focus our conference efforts in the United States, looking for partners around the world to share scientific messages."

Sales of Luxury Homes Increase

Coldwell Banker, a full-service real estate provider, recently announced that its 2004 sales of luxury homes valued at $1 million or more reached a high of $35.5 billion, surpassing the company's previous record, set in 2003, of $23.3 billion.

The average price for luxury homes sold by Coldwell Banker in 2004 also rose to $1.7 million, with demand being spurred by a rebounding economy and attractive interest rates, the company says.

Coldwell Banker says it reported nearly seven times more sales of luxury homes in California than in any other state, with Florida at a close second. Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey joined California and Florida as the only states to produce more than $1 billion in Coldwell Banker luxury home sales. Nevada, Idaho and Pennsylvania had the highest percentage increases in luxury home sales, according to the company.

It's likely that some of these luxury homeowners will bring business to spa & pool dealers. According to the Coldwell Banker Luxury Index, a study conducted in August 2004 of 300 million-dollar-home owners looking to improve their homes, 11 percent said they would like to install an in-ground pool. Ten percent would like to purchase a hot tub.

"We expect the luxury home sales market to remain solid throughout 2005," says Jim Gillespie, president and CEO of the company.

Continuing Education And The Award Goes To . . .

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals recently released an updated calendar of Professional Pool & Spa Operator courses, APSP Technical Schools and certification exams.

The Professional Pool & Spa Operator course offers training and certification to operators of public pools, spas and commercial aquatic facilities. Pool and spa operators seeking certification should enroll in the 16-hour PPSO Basic Course. Instructor candidates can enroll in the eight-hour PPSO Instructor Course.

The Technical Schools, part of the APSP Service Technician Certification Program, includes the Tech I, Tech II and Certified programs, each of which includes 40 hours of technical training, covering topics such as pool and spa structures, hydraulics, filters and seasonal care. Each level can be used as a steppingstone to earning the CSP Certified Service Professional title. APSP also offers the CBP Certified Building Professional title to individuals who complete the CBP application and meet all CBP requirements. For more information and a timeline on when these courses are available, call 703/838-0083.

  • Lochinvar Corp. recently received the 2005 "Excellence in Manufacturing" award from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Business Journal. The Lebanon, Tenn.-based company also received top honors in the "MidSized Company" category for manufacturers with 100 to 400 employees. Criteria for this award included company history, profitability, employee focus, research and development, environmental solutions, new products and process improvements.
  • Medallion Swim Pool Co., Colonial Heights, Va., was recently named the 2004 Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year for its dedication to the community and for its charity work on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
  • Advantis Technologies has earned a gold-level PACE award from The Clean Air Campaign, a not-for-profit organization that works to mitigate traffic congestion and improve air quality in the Atlanta area. Employers and property management companies were recognized for their efforts in encouraging employees and tenants to make use of commuting alternatives including mass transit, carpooling, vanpooling, cycling, walking, "teleworking" and alternative work schedules.

Call For Papers

The first Pool and Spa Symposium, in conjunction with Piscina BCH, will be held Oct. 5-7 in Barcelona. The symposium gives pool and spa professionals a place to exchange information on aquatic design, construction, maintenance, marketing, water treatment and retail management. If you are interested in making a presentation at the symposium, email [email protected]. Presenters will be notified by April 30.

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