7-year-old’s death in Encino spa leads to ‘suction entrapment’ lawsuit

LOS ANGELES — Relatives of a 7-year-old boy who died in 2016 after being pulled unconscious from a backyard spa at the family’s Encino rental home are suing the landlord, as well as a real estate company and the manufacturers of the spa’s pump.

Thomas Catog Rozmiarek, who was pronounced dead at a hospital at 1:13 a.m. Nov. 6, was not breathing when he was pulled from the spa a day earlier, authorities said.

The plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Monday are the child’s father and mother, Pascal Rozmiarek and Jorgeth Caparida; his minor brother and twin sister; the boy’s grandmother, Nelita Caparida; and his mother’s cousin, Ronelo Catog Sugcay.

They allege the boy was a victim of “suction entrapment,” which causes a person to be sucked by powerful force against a spa drain, making it difficult to break free or to be rescued.

The suit names as defendants the home’s owner, Brian G. Duffy; Rodeo Realty Inc., which represented the boy’s family in connection with the rental of the home; and Pentair Aquatic Systems, which made the spa pump.

The suit alleges premises liability, negligence and products liability. The family seeks unspecified damages.

Neither Duffy nor a Pentair representative could be immediately reached for comment.

According to the complaint, the boy, a good swimmer, entered the spa while his relatives were in the back yard and while his mother watched him on Nov. 5, 2016.

“Thomas went underwater, in the vicinity of the spa drain, and his arm was sucked into the drain,” according to the lawsuit. “Thomas could not pull himself off of the drain because of the strong suction.”

Family members struggled to save the boy and turn off the pump, and also called 911, the suit states. The child’s father arrived after the boy was ultimately freed from the suction in the spa.

The boy was pronounced dead at 1:13 a.m. Nov. 6, 2016, said Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

The Pentair Intelliflo pump that Duffy bought for the spa in about 2011 was the company’s best and most expensive pump, equipped with a 3 hp motor that “creates a great deal of suction,” according to the complaint.

The pump did not have a safety vacuum release system, which was developed by Pentair and can shut off a pump when a suction entrapment situation is occurring, the suit states.

The suit alleges the pump sold to Duffy was defective because it lacked the suction detection feature.

The suit further alleges Duffy and Rodeo Realty were negligent because there was an inadequate cover on the spa drain. Many newer pools and spas have dual drains that reduce the chance of suction entrapment when compared with single-drain spas such as the one in which the boy died, the suit states.

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