Posted in Slip & Fall Accidents on April 20, 2022
In 2011, in a suburban school just north of Chicago, six-year-old Rahul Chandani crawled back to his kindergarten class. He was playing on an icy playground when he slipped, breaking his leg. He had slammed his head to the hard pavement, becoming concussed.
Teachers told him he was too heavy to carry. They made him try to walk, and when he could not, he crawled over 200 feet back to the class. No one ever called an ambulance.
Chandani missed six weeks of school, recovering from a head injury, a fractured tibia, and a blood clot. Emotionally, he was a wreck and traumatized. His parents sued the school district for negligence, seeking more than $200,000 in damages.
In San Diego, California, that same year, an unsupervised physical education class played Red Rover. A rough-and-tumble playground game, always good for scrapes or a few bruises. The game had been banned at Carlton Oaks Elementary School.
Red Rover involves two lines of kids holding hands to form a human chain, and then a kid yells a challenge to another kid in the opposite chain to “come over” and try to break their chain. Sometimes, a player breaks through and joins the chain. Sometimes, they fail and are sent back in shame.
A seventh-grader dashed across the playground and collided with the opposing line, breaking a leg instead of the human chain. The student missed time from school and needed physical therapy. They still suffer from leg pain. The parents sued the school district and received a $15,000 settlement to cover the family’s medical bills and attorney costs.
In 2013, in New Orleans, a young boy ran across the playground at the Homer A. Plessy Charter School. He caught his foot in a deep crack in the pavement, tripping and falling headlong. He suffered severe, debilitating injuries. The boy’s mother, Toryana Harrell, filed a suit against the school, accusing them of negligence, alleging the playground was not maintained and unsafe for kids.
These are just three of the thousands of stories concerning negligent supervision in U.S. schools.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American emergency rooms see almost 250,000 children (ages 14 and younger) for playground-related injuries. Most of the nonfatal injuries happen at schools and daycares. These injuries are usually a mixture of:
Some of the more extreme injuries are:
Even though fractures and contusions make up more than half of these injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 100 deaths happen every decade from playground-related injuries. The cost to treat and manage all these injuries and deaths are estimated at more than $1 billion per year.
The data also shows approximately 70% of hospital visits resulted from falls from equipment. More girls (55%) sustain injuries than boys (45%). Younger children, from ages five to nine, are treated at emergency departments more than any other groups.
Most of the injuries occurred on climbing equipment and swings. Low-income areas have more occurrences of maintenance-related hazards than other areas. These hazards might include:
Students getting hurt on school grounds and playground equipment falls under a specific personal injury case, known as premises liability. This does not have to be playground equipment; it can be as simple as something like slippery floors, broken or missing handrails, or defective bleachers.
Schools are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for students. By law, while students are at school, teachers and school personnel are expected to act in loco parentis, Latin for “in the place of parents.” School representatives are required to offer the same supervision and care as parents and guardians do while the kids are with them.
When a child suffers an injury at school or at a school-sponsored event, one of the first questions a parent usually asks is who was supervising them. This is the first step of a natural inquisition to see if any of the school’s personnel was negligent in any way. The establishment of negligence leads to answers concerning liability.
In a negligence case, the injured and their parents become the plaintiff, having the job of proving negligence on the part of the school or its employees. The school district becomes the defendant. There are four elements in proving negligence in a premise liability claim:
In the aforementioned cases, the schools had a duty. Employees at the schools breached their duties. This breach caused the students’ injuries. The school districts were found to have premise liability because parents expected their children to play on safe playgrounds, on safe equipment, and in safe environments while being supervised.
Those who fail to inspect and make necessary repairs should anticipate injuries. But even well-maintained equipment and grounds still see plenty of slips and falls. The school’s employees accept the responsibility of ensuring the students get the proper care if an injury does occur.