Who Is Responsible for Playground Liability?
Playground safety has drastically improved since today’s parents were children. Concrete landing pads, burning hot metal slides, and rusty merry-go-rounds have been replaced by soft synthetic surfaces, plastic equipment, and shade structures. Despite these upgrades, playgrounds still pose a threat of injury. More than 200,000 children visit the emergency room each year due to playground accidents and injuries.
Determining Who Is at Fault for Playground Accidents and Injuries
If you are a parent whose child has suffered a playground injury, you may have wondered who, if anyone, is liable. The answer depends on where and how the injury occurred. Generally, there are three main parties that may be held responsible: operators, manufacturers, and supervisors.
Depending on the circumstances, the operator of the playground where an injury has occurred may be liable. Playground operators have a duty to protect children from foreseeable dangers on their premises.
For example, if a child sustains an injury while playing on a playground at a fast food restaurant, the restaurant owner may be deemed at fault. Suppose that due to a loose screw, a rock on the playground’s climbing wall gives out and a child falls. If the evidence shows that the accident happened due to a failure to exercise a reasonable amount of care to maintain the playground, the restaurant owner could be liable.
In some situations, the manufacturer of the playground equipment may be held responsible. If a child falls off the side of a ladder that is part of playground equipment and it can be shown that the ladder’s railings are too short to provide adequate protection for a climbing child, the manufacturer may be liable under a design defect claim.
Another way manufacturers may be held liable is if an injury occurs due to a manufacturing defect. For example, if a child is playing on a swing set and the plastic seat suddenly disconnects from the metal chains suspending it. There may be evidence that due to an error in the manufacturing process, the plastic used in the seat was not strong enough to hold the weight of an occupant. In such a case, the manufacturer may be liable due to a manufacturing defect.
Finally, in some cases, the people who were supervising the child at the time of the accident may be liable for the injury. Schools, for example, have a legal duty to adequately supervise students during the school day, including at recess. If an injury occurs as a result of the school’s failure to supervise students, the school may face liability under a negligent supervision claim.
For instance, if the school routinely permits children to go down a slide headfirst and an injury occurs, the school may be deemed negligent for permitting the dangerous behavior. If the school did not observe the behavior, it may be deemed negligent for failing to adequately supervise.
School liability in Massachusetts has a host of other factors involved, consult with an attorney to best answer questions of School liability.
How an Attorney Can Help
Playground liability in injury cases can range from simple and straightforward (where there is clear liability and all the evidence points to one party at fault), to complex (where there are multiple defendants and several theories of liability).
If the defendant is a government entity, special notice of lawsuit requirements and limits on liability may come into play. An experienced attorney can help navigate these laws and prevent your claim from being unnecessarily barred.
Depending on the facts of a particular case, an attorney can help determine whether the injured party should take an offer of settlement or pursue recovery through a trial.
It is heartbreaking when a child suffers an injury from an accident that could have been prevented. When negligent parties are held liable for playground accidents and injuries, they are less likely to make the same mistakes again and playgrounds become safer.