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Third Degree Burns from Scalding Water is Too Common Among Children, Seniors and the Elderly

Back in August 2011, a grandmother’s summer holiday at a luxury seaside hotel in Great Britain ended in tragedy when she was scalded to death in a hot bath.

Unfortunately, severe burns from scalding hot water happen too often among children and seniors alike. The worst part is that these incidents are almost always preventable.

Evelyn Cowley, 88 years old, was enjoying her annual family holiday when she took a bath in her hotel room. But for some reason, she immersed herself in water that had a temperature of more than 120 degrees Farenheit. As a result, she suffered third degree burns to half her body, mostly to her lower limbs and her back and arms.

Cowley was no ordinary senior citizen. She was a decorated RAF officer, who served during the Second World War. She died in the hotel room’s bath at some point between saying goodnight to her two sons and breakfast time the next morning. Her son came to wake her in the morning and heard the bathtub water still running, then found her dead in the tub.

The water coming into the tub had been heated in the hotel’s boiler to 140 degrees-which is much too hot for human contact–and the water came out of the tap at around 125 degrees, said a hotel spokesperson. But he added that heating the water to that temperature was a precaution to stop the spread of Legionnaires’ disease–an often deadly form of pneumonia caused by a specific bacteria that grows quickly in stored hot water.

Two days after Cowley’s death, an investigator recorded a temperature 130 degrees from water running from the bath’s tap. He said: “I could only hold my hand under for about two seconds.” The investigation also found that there was not a warning sign for the hot water posted in the bathroom. The hotel did note, however, that this was not a legal requirement.

An autopsy showed Cowley died as a result of extensive burns, which could have been caused as a result of her dementia. The local coroner said: “She died accidentally, and dementia could have caused her misjudgement of immersing herself into the water.”

The coroner also said it was possible that she suffered a mini-stroke when she entered the hot water, but tests were inconclusive.

The lesson here is that seniors and the elderly, as well as children, must be closely monitored when they are going to use hot water to bathe or to cook. It is very easy to spill scalding hot water onto the skin when handling it, and the burns can be so severe that skin graft is necessary to heal the wounds–and death is certainly possible too.

If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.