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When Are Homeowners Legally Responsible for Trampoline Injuries?

by The Beasley Firm  |  September 28, 2012  |  

Earlier this week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) again warned about the dangers of home trampolines, “discouraging home use of trampolines,” and collecting data showing that “Most trampoline injuries occur with multiple simultaneous users on the mat. Cervical spine injuries often occur with falls off the trampoline or with attempts at somersaults or flips.”

The AAP has made the study available free on their website, so we’ve also hosted a copy here. If you own a trampoline, or if your children play on other’s home trampolines, you will want to read it to see details on how to reduce the possibility of children being injured.

How To Make Recreational And Home Trampolines Safer

The AAP recommends trampolines never be used in a recreational setting. If you are going to use it at home, or if your kids use a trampoline elsewhere, there are steps to make it safer.

The first problem is the “attractive nuisance” problem, when children sneak onto homeowner’s property to use trampolines without the owner’s knowledge. As the AAP says, in many ways trampolines should be considered like swimming pools, and many homeowners insurance policies require that trampolines be inside of closed areas – just like pools – for the insurance policy to apply. For similar reasons, trampoline should not have ladders installed next to them, because that can enable young children to access the trampoline unsupervised.

The second problem is adults’ lack of understanding about the dangers of trampoline use. Up to one half of children’s trampoline injuries occur under adult supervision, and many more could be prevented by adults properly instructing children about safe trampoline use. For example:

  • One user at a time. As the AAP says, “three-quarters of injuries occurred when multiple people were using the trampoline at the same time,” and smaller jumpers are at a greater risk than larger jumpers, because the relative forces they experience from other jumpers are greater.
  • No somersaults or flips. The AAP notes, “Somersaults and flips are among the most common causes of permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries and should not be performed in the recreational setting.” If you want to do back flips and other tricks like that, you need to do it in a commercial setting, where there’s much greater assurance that the trampoline is properly set up and that the supervision is appropriate.
  • Check the padding, springs, and make sure the trampoline is level. Especially when the trampoline has been moved, sometimes the padding easily falls off or springs start to come out, increasing the risk of either a fall onto the springs, and “off balance” bounce that sends the user off of the trampoline, or a fall hard enough that the user stretches the trampoline far enough to impact the ground.

When Homeowners Are Liable For Trampoline Injuries

As the AAP points out, trampoline injuries aren’t nearly as clear as, say, a slip and fall on an icy walkway. Some homeowners insurance policies completely exclude coverage for trampoline injuries. Other policies cover trampolines, but only if the homeowner specifically disclose the trampoline and paid extra for “rider” coverage. Other policies cover trampolines, but only under certain circumstances, like if the trampoline was protected by a fence. If you own a trampoline, or let someone bring one onto your property, check your insurance policy carefully, and call your insurer with any questions.

Parents often bring a lawsuit against homeowners when their children are injured on traveling, because injuries can be extraordinarily severe. Between 10% and 20% of trampoline injuries involve head or neck injuries, ranging from bruises and strains to cracked skulls and severed spinal cords as a result of hyperflexion or hyperextension. These injures are life-altering, and the children will need lots of help.

Usually, there are two main legal issues in these cases: was the homeowner negligent? and did the injured person assume the risk of the injury? If the court finds the homeowner was negligence, and that the injured person did not assume the risk, the homeowner will be held liable for the injuries.

There are three primary ways in which homeowners are found to have been negligent with regard to a trampoline. First is the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, where the homeowner failed to take reasonable precautions, like installing a fence, to prevent children in the neighborhood from trespassing onto the lot and playing on the trampoline unsupervised. Second is the inadequate maintenance claim, like where the homeowner allows children or guests to jump on a trampoline that has some problem with it, like it not being installed on a level surface or it having some of the springs coming out. Third is the inadequate supervision claim, like where a homeowner allows multiple children to bounce on the trampoline at once, or where a homeowner allows young children to bounce on the trampoline unsupervised.

Assuming negligence can be proven, however, they’re still the “assumption of risk” doctrine. In the Kelly v. Roscoe case, for example, a seven-year-old guest was repeatedly told by the homeowner and her parents not to use the trampoline, but she got on it anyway with an older child. The older child “bounced her up,” and she went off the trampoline and onto the ground, and she broke her leg. The court ruled that the risk of the injury was “obvious.” In contrast, in the Lykins v. Fun Spot Trampolines case, four children were sitting on the outer edge of the trampoline while another was bouncing in the middle of the trampoline. One of the bounce is not a child on the edge off the trampoline, and when she fell, she broke her neck, crushing her spinal cord, rendering her quadriplegic. In that case, the court said the child did not assume the risk, because she was seated on the edge of the trampoline, and so her injury was not reasonably foreseeable.

Since 1958, The Beasley Firm has fought hard for people seriously injured by negligence, obtaining over $2 billion in jury awards and settlements. If your child was injured while using a trampoline, contact our premises liability lawyers for a free and confidential consultation.

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