Fear-Mongering Torts and the Exaggerated Death of Diving

20 Pages Posted: 15 May 2006 Last revised: 16 Sep 2015

See all articles by Carl T. Bogus

Carl T. Bogus

Roger Williams University School of Law


According to conventional wisdom, a mindlessly aggressive tort system is depriving Americans of the joys of leaping from diving boards. As Newsweek put it, litigation and rising liability insurance premiums have caused public pools to remove their diving boards, "leaving only rafts, noodles, and repetitive games of sharks and minnows as diversions in the water." In this article, Professor Bogus examines a host of data to determine whether the conventional wisdom is correct. He discovered that while the percentage of swimming pools has decreased, many boards have been removed from dangerously shallow pools. Water should be nine feet deep to dive from the side of a pool and at least ten feet deep to dive from a one-meter board. Nevertheless, to encourage sales - and without any scientific support - the industry trade association approved pools, equipped with diving boards, as shallow as 7.5 feet. Faced with litigation by divers rendered quadriplegic, the association devised a "blame the victim" defense, contending injured divers failed to execute shallow dives. Yet people routinely underestimate the distance and velocity they will travel through water, and rigorous training is required to teach people how to reliably perform shallow dives. Professor Bogus argues that the industry campaign obscured the simple reality that sufficiently deep pools are safe for diving and shallow pools are not. Through interviews with diving board manufacturers, the national diving association, college diving programs, and others, Professor Bogus discovered that the death of diving is grossly exaggerated. He concludes that while litigation has decreased the percentage of pools equipped with boards, in the main that has been for the good.

Suggested Citation

Bogus, Carl T., Fear-Mongering Torts and the Exaggerated Death of Diving. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 28, p. 17, 2004, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 25, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=902029

Carl T. Bogus (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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