Cabell County schools safety manager Tim Stewart says a lawsuit in the past year involved a child who broke his arm jumping off a swing like Superman. The District settled the action for $20,000.
The position of the district in my view is nonsensical. Monkey bars and other equipment will remain and could also be used as launch pads for Spidermen-wannabes. Moreover, such obvious and patent dangers are generally not the basis for liability so long as the equipment is not defective. One area of liability for playgrounds has been the lack of cushion on the ground such as wood chips or the use of particular rubber mats that heat up to a dangerous level. Just having a swing set is not a particularly strong torts case.
One of my sons broke his arm at his elementary school yard by falling off a piece of equipment. I never even contemplated a lawsuit. Such accidents happen to children everywhere. Most jurors would agreed with me.
There is always a risk of lawsuit when you are in the business of taking care of children. However, to start to remove basic elements like swings in fear of baseless lawsuits is a poor choice. If the district truly wants to eliminate all spontaneous Spidermen performances, it would have to remove a lot more than just swings. Of course, the best way to avoid lawsuits is to wrap the children in bubble wrap (with air holes of course) and allow them to play statues on a fully matted surface. However, that would defeat the idea of recess.
School districts have and should be sued for negligence in the supervision of children when the evidence warrants such a lawsuit. This availability of swings is simply not an act of negligence.
Previously, there was a controversy over the growing number of schools who have banned tag and other contact sports at recess. This has been done despite warning from experts that children need such activities for healthy growth and relations. In any of these cases, please do not blame the lawyers — at least not all lawyers. If the West Virginia lawyers settled a case for $20,000 for a kid who simply jumped off a swing, they need to reexamine their litigation policies — not playground equipment.
Source: Star Tirbune