Parents are always looking for new ways to keep their kids active and occupied. Especially in the winter months, parents are eager to find any activity that can help their kids burn off some energy. Trampoline parks have been popping up across the country. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there were only about 40 trampoline parks in the United States in 2011. By 2014, the number had jumped to 280. New parks have opened each month since then. A quick Google search revealed at least 12 trampoline parks in the state of Indiana.
In theory, trampoline parks not only sound incredibly fun (even to adults), but they seem like the perfect way for kids and teens to burn off winter cabin fever. The Fishers, Indiana Sky Zone boasts “massive wall-to-wall trampolines” that can be used for freestyle jump, skyslam (basketball), and ultimate dodgeball. There is also a “foam zone” which allows for “big air and soft landings.”
But, it’s not all high flying and fun at trampoline parks – there are some serious risks involved. And, as you can imagine, as trampoline parks have become more common, so have visitor injuries. A recent study published by LiveScience.com found that between 2010 and 2014, the number of ER visits for trampoline related injuries suffered by children at trampoline parks had increased from 581 to 6,932. It should be noted that injuries in homes, gyms and in schools remained steady during the same period.
Trampoline Dangers Lead to Serious Injuries
So, why the staggering statistics for trampoline-park injuries? First of all, trampoline parks differ from residential or educational settings and create an atmosphere that just asks for a premise liability case. First, there are often multiple jumpers of various ages jumping at the same time. This can lead to collision. A second factor is the size of trampoline parks. Many are 25,000 to 40,000 square feet with large trampolines wall to wall and at dangerous angles allowing patrons to make higher and more dangerous jumps. Thirdly, other common features such as foam pits and slides can present unexpected hazards.
All of these risks can lead to very serious injury. Some of the most common injuries that result from trampoline parks are leg fractures, dislocations and sprains. Trampolines were originally developed for upward jumping, but when trampoline parks place trampolines at angles, it creates lateral (sideways) forces strong enough to cause fractures. Also, if a person’s weight depresses the trampoline bed on landing and both feet do not land at the same time, it can result in bone and ligament damage. Unfortunately, there have been many severe and debilitating injuries also reported including skull fractures, open leg fractures, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord trauma.
Releases and Waivers May Not Prevent You From Filing a Claim
If you have ever gone to a trampoline park or a similar sportsplex, you may not have realized it, but you likely signed a release and waiver which is prominently displayed on Sky Zone’s homepage. By signing this agreement you acknowledge the known risk of injury and agree to accept and assume those risks. The agreement further releases the company from paying for any cost or expense incurred by the patron for such injuries. The actual effect of a waiver such as this varies from state to state. Some states strictly forbid the execution of pre-injury release or refuse to enforce them. In Indiana, the courts have held that these waivers are enforceable if worded properly. This means that even if the release is recognized, it may not bar all claims. Having a signed release does not necessarily mean that you are completely barred from recovery. Having an experienced attorney review the release is always the best approach.
Who is Responsible After a Trampoline Park Accident?
To prove liability, the analysis has to be whether the patron was injured because of a defect or physical feature of the trampoline park or to the park staff’s negligence in failing to supervise. Parks must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of patrons who are using the facility and must warn them of both open and obvious dangers and those that they have notice of but are not foreseeable.
In the wake of reports of serious injuries, the industry formed the International Association of Trampoline Parks (IATP) which provides guidance and a list of best practices for trampoline parks. However, these rules are not mandatory in most states, including Indiana.
While the parks are responsible for following guidelines and precautions, it should also be the parents’ and patrons’ responsibility to know the risks, consider the possible outcome, and make an informed decision.
If you or a loved one has been injured at a trampoline park or sportsplex, we recommend that you contact an experienced attorney who can go over the facts of your case and discuss options with you. At Keller & Keller, our consultations are always free.