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Can Someone Sue Me if They Get Hurt on My Trampoline?

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Raphael Jackson, a law student from the Chase School of Law.

Trampolines are a common fixture to many a suburban household. Many parents raising children in the digital age can appreciate the old fashioned outdoor fun they can provide their children by installing a trampoline in the backyard. An added advantage is the relative safety a parent may feel when his or her child does not have to venture far from home to enjoy the outdoor recreation.

Averaging $200, trampolines are more affordable than most playground sets, which can run anywhere between $500 to $2,000. The safety of keeping your child close by, however, may be negated by the injury that is likely to occur if you own a trampoline. Given the relatively low costs and ease of installation, trampolines are an attractive means of recreation, not just for children, but for people of all ages. However, from a legal standpoint, this “attraction” is precisely what a homeowner or tenant must be concerned about.

How Often Do People Really Get Injured on a Trampoline?

A study published by Dr. Randall T. Loder, chair of orthopedic surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine, revealed that trampoline injuries have led to 288,876 fractures and over $1 billion in emergency room visits between 2002 and 2011. 92.7% injuries occurred in children age 16 and younger. Thus, chances are, if you do have a trampoline someone is likely to be injured while using it.  A landlord may be liable for your personal injury, or the personal injury of a visitor, guest, or a trespasser.

Simply said, trampolines pose numerous safety hazards. If you are a renting a home you may have had an encounter in which a landlord insists that you remove, or not introduce, a trampoline onto the premises. If you are a home owner, you may have experienced insurance clauses which forbid trampolines.

Will My Insurance Cover Trampoline Injuries?

Many insurance policies will refuse to cover the insured if the owner insists on having a trampoline. Insurance companies are aware of the greater likelihood for injury on those who own a trampoline and they have reacted in the following ways:

  • Outright cancellation of insurance
  • Mandatory trampoline exclusion
  • Additional “nuisance surcharge”
  • Mandatory netting/ fencing/ and or locks on trampoline

Premises Liability is a legal theory that usually applies to personal injury cases. In order to prevail on a personal injury claim the party needs to prove that the property owner was negligent in the ownership or maintenance of an equipment or a condition on his property.

Whether you are a tenant or a landowner, you are likely to have invited or uninvited visitors on your property.  These visitors can be divided into three main categories. To each category the landowner owes a special duty of care. The three main categories of visitors are invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

  • Invitees – An invitee is a visitor that has the owner’s express permission to be on the property. People who fall into this category include friends, guests, neighbors, and relatives. The duty owed to the invitee is simply to exercise reasonable care in keeping the property in a relatively safe condition.
  • Licensees – A licensee is someone who has either: the owners express permission to be on the property; or the owners implied permission to be on the property. The difference between a licensee and an invitee is that the licensee is visiting for his or own purposes. Licensees might include the pizza delivery person or the vacuum cleaner salesman. The landowner’s duty to the licensee is less than that of the invitee. The landowner has a duty to warn of a dangerous condition only if:
    1)      The landowner knows about the condition; and
    2)      The Licensee is not likely to discover it.
  • Trespassers – A trespasser is someone who has no authorization to be on the property. The landowner’s only duty to the trespasser is not to engage in any willful or wanton misconduct. There is an exception however to the duty owed to trespassing children.

A different legal theory applies, however, to tenants or landowners that maintain a condition or piece of equipment on property which is likely to attract children. This can extend to swimming pools, farm machinery, playground equipment, skateboard ramps, and trampolines. Most trampoline accidents involve people under the age of sixteen. If you have an accessible trampoline on your property you likely have what may be considered an attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance is a legal theory that states that a landowner may be liable for injuries to children trespassing on their property if the injury is caused by an item that may attract children to the property.

What If Someone Was Hurt Because the Trampoline Was Defective?

If you or a loved one were not engaged in any risky behavior on a properly-installed trampoline yet you still suffered injury due to a manufacturing defect, then you may have a cause of action under a products liability theory. In this event the legal question will centered on one or more of the following questions.

Was there a manufacturing defect with the trampoline?

Was the homeowner negligent?

Was a third party user negligent?

Did the injured party assume the risk?

What Steps Should I Take to Avoid Becoming Part of a Trampoline Lawsuit?

Aside from avoiding legal liability it is also generally advisable, from a safety standpoint, to avoid installing a trampoline in your backyard. However, for those who insist on owning one, it may be wise to adhere to the following guidelines.

  • Purchase trampoline insurance coverage
  • Consider investing in a fence around your property
  • Discourage or forbid multiple simultaneous users on the trampoline
  • Purchase a trampoline safety net (and lock for the net)
  • Consider ground level installation of your trampoline.
  • Maintain and Inspect trampoline for defects regularly
  • Supervise your children’s usage of the trampoline

Following these guidelines may not serve as a protection to legal liability for personal injury, but they can go a long way in ensuring personal safety. The complexity of the rules of liability vary state to state, thus it is wise to contact an attorney for a consultation in order to address your specific case.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a trampoline related accident, call Lawrence & Associates for a free consultation. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!