Neil Anderson, Esq., et al.
I am a father of a very active, energetic, enthusiastic and athletic six-year-old boy. No wonder that I am frequently looking for attractive things for him to do that do not involve a screen. Things that are fun and burn energy. Recently, we discovered together a local trampoline park. At the time it seemed like a great idea; so much so, that I bought him a membership to the gym. What began as a fun outing quickly soured.
At first glance, all was well. My son gravitated to the foam pit where he could take flying leaps off the trampoline into a sea of foam. When we first arrived, the area was well watched and managed by an attentive young employee. He ensured kids were of an appropriate age to be in the area, allowed only one jumper at a time on the trampoline, and coached kids if their jumps were inappropriate. We jumped for about an hour before breaking for my boy’s favorite drink, Gatorade.
When we returned, I was horrified. There must have been a shift change as there was a new employee managing the area. It was not crowded, but I noticed a very small child, barely out of toddler hood on one of the trampolines. She hardly had the physical capacity to jump into the pit. I remember thinking they should not allow children so young in that area. It was when I saw her imitating an older child’s front flips into the pit that I really became alarmed. She tried to copy his jump and landed headfirst on the edge of the trampoline and then rolled into the foam. Thankfully she was okay, but no one intervened, and the staff person allowed her to continue to jump. I went over to speak with him and he just nodded his head,
He did nothing.
A few minutes later, she was back. She did the same thing. I went and gently spoke to her myself and glared at her parent who removed her from the area. I proceeded to coax my son into trying another area. Before doing so, I spoke with a supervisor.
They did nothing.
My son and I went to the individual trampolines to simply jump for a time. It did not take long before he wanted to jump in the foam pit again. A bad situation was worse when we returned. The same young man oversaw the area. It was crowded. There was more than one person jumping on each of the trampolines, a hazard in and of itself. One trampoline had three toddlers, while another had an adult, and yet another two teens. It was an accident waiting to happen. I told my son we were leaving and dragged him out of the park despite his crying. He did not understand, how could he?
Hazards at Trampoline Parks
My inner lawyer kicked in and I began to research the hazards associated with trampoline parks.
Among the trampoline park hazards:
- Too many people jumping on one trampoline, causing too much force and resulting in fractures
- Smaller children nest to larger children and adults, increasing the risk of serious injury
- Trampolines too close to walls or other hazards that can cause brain injuries
- Thin padding over the floor connecting cables
- Ball pits that are too shallow, causing leg, hip, or spine injuries
Let’s look at some data. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2011, there were only 40 trampoline parks nationwide. By 2014, there were 240. Today there are more than 600. These parks have exploded and why not? They are tremendous fun and great exercise. Unfortunately, they also come with perilous risks. In 2017, according to CBS News, 18,000 emergency room visits were the result of trampoline injuries and over a four year period 15,000 were reported from trampoline parks nationwide. At least 6 deaths were confirmed. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, children under 6 should never jump on trampolines. The American Academy of Pediatrics is even more restrictive : It “strongly discourages” recreational trampoline use at all ages; concluding “almost half of the injuries in kids under 6 were fractures”, There’s even a type of fracture doctors call “trampoline ankle.”
Why are these statistics so staggering? Well, as I pointed out in my own story, supervision and adherence to rules could be one reason. By my own observation, the staff at the park I attended were very young (high school aged) and likely not well trained or versed on safety protocols. Second, there are multiple jumpers of multiple ages and abilities jumping at the same time. While ideally jumping on individual trampolines, there is definitely the risk of collision. Third, these parks can be huge with wall to wall trampolines, some stationed at angles that allow jumpers to attempt execution of dangerous jumps beyond their abilities. Lastly, foam pits, slides, basketball hoops, and other added attractions can present their own unique hazards.
These risks add up to the very real possibility of serious injury. To name a few, common injuries resulting from trampolines include leg fractures, dislocations, sprains, bumps and bruises. They can also result in bone and ligament damage and debilitating injury including skull fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.
What are your Options
When you go to a trampoline park, it is likely you filled out a release or waiver acknowledging the risk of injury. When you signed the waiver, you agreed to accept and assume those risks. You need to be aware that in signing a release, you are giving the operator legal immunity from responsibility for injury. As a parent or guardian to protect yourself and those in your care, in addition to supervising your child, you should write into the waiver “not applicable to injuries resulting from negligence” and capture the document in your mobile device While some states have adopted laws which place far greater responsibility on the operators and have voided broadly worded releases of negligence; Massachusetts has not.
This does not mean there is no recourse if you or a loved one were injured. Massachusetts law offers some protection if it can be proven that the operate demonstrated gross negligence, recklessness or misconduct. There are several statutes which may be enforceable if the operator is in violation. Demonstrating proof of gross negligence or recklessness is more difficult than proving simple negligence but it may offer your only recourse for recovery.
If you or someone you love was harmed in a trampoline park accident, or if you have questions pertaining to liability and releases ; contact Tramontozzi Law Offices today. We can explain your rights and ensure you make an informed decision about how to proceed.