Sledding is Not Child’s Play Anymore: Public Agencies Balance the Risk of Litigation, Murphy Campbell a Sacramento law firm

Sledding is Not Child’s Play Anymore: Public Agencies Balance the Risk of Litigation

The fear of litigation is causing some public agencies to prohibit activities which were once considered a normal part of childhood play. On January 7, 2015, the City Council in Dubuque, Iowa voted to ban sledding in almost all of its 50 parks. Other cities in the country have taken similar action, including: Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; Columbia City, Indiana; and various locations in New Jersey. While such actions are directly associated with child safety, often the biggest motivator for imposing such restrictions is fear of legal liability. For example, in Omaha, Nebraska, the family of a five year old was awarded $2.4 million dollars as a result of a sledding accident involving their child. In Boone, Iowa, a sledder was awarded $12 million dollars, and in Sioux City, Iowa, a sledder who crashed into a stop sign was awarded $2.8 million dollars. Those jury awards are noticed by other public agencies and their insurers. One study estimated that 20,000 children are injured per year in the USA, although most injuries are relatively minor. Avoiding litigation also has prompted various public agencies to modify playgrounds. In some areas, swing sets have been removed, such as in Cabell County, West Virginia, where a school district was confronted with two different lawsuits from the same parent…