As the weather turns colder, parents everywhere are turning to indoor activities to keep their children entertained through the winter. Trampoline parks are popular with children of all ages, especially during the colder months. However, trampoline parks are much more dangerous than many people realize. Death or serious injury can occur in seconds.
It’s not hard to see that there is a risk of injury when kids are jumping on trampolines. But many people are not aware of just how common these injuries occur. Normally a business that recognizes inherent risks to its business model addresses this by insuring against the risk. A commercial general liability insurance policy is a common way of providing protection when someone is injured on their property due to negligence. However, Texas trampoline parks have taken a different approach—shifting all of the risks onto the parents.
The Dangers of Texas Trampoline Parks
Most parents would be horrified to discover that 100,000 people get injured on trampolines every year and the risk of injury is greater in children. In fact, trampoline parks are so dangerous that the American Association of Pediatrics warns parents that trampoline use should be discouraged due to the possibility of severe and permanent injuries.
The AAP equally discourages trampoline parks and home trampolines. Despite the high rate of injury, Texas surprisingly does not have statewide regulations for the safety of trampoline parks. This means that there isn’t a standard for maintaining the equipment or taking additional safety measures to minimize the risk of injuries.
Avoiding Responsibility Via Indemnity Agreements
To further complicate matters, most parks require a parent or legal guardian to sign a liability waiver and/or an indemnity agreement making it much more difficult to recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. While liability releases can often be rendered void as to the injured minor because she is too young to contract, the indemnity agreements signed by the parents are not void. Thus, any judgment taken by the minor can be turned around and enforced against the signing parent.
Here is where the problem lies. When a minor is injured, the minor is too young to sue on their own. Thus, the legal guardians (usually the parents) are the parties who must step in to bring the claim on behalf of the minor. But are they really going to bring this claim for the child when the judgment can be turned around and enforced right back against the signing parent? As you can imagine, this can create an ethical quandary for a trampoline accident attorney when the parents are divorced and the non-signing parent wants to pursue the claim.
Trampoline Park Injuries vs Home Trampoline Injuries
In cases of injury caused by a home trampoline, there are different liability issues. An injured minor may be able to recover damages from the homeowner’s insurance policy of the property owner or even another jumper if the injury takes place at another home and there was negligence that led to the injury. Failure to supervise by adults leading to multiple jumpers at the same time or failure to maintain the trampolines in a safe working condition are examples of this. But these avenues of recovery have been foreclosed by indemnity contracts in Texas.
What Can Be Done
There should be a public policy requiring that trampoline parks carry insurance to protect against injury and not escape responsibility by contracting the burden back onto the parents. Our government has the power to set public policy via the legislature or the rulings of the Texas Supreme Court—however, the latter can only be done when a case has been brought before them on appeal.
We currently have a public policy in the Courts that protects minors from having contracts enforced directly against them. Courts recognize they are too young to legally contract and will void a contract signed by them that is against their own interest. This does not void any parts that are enforceable against the parent alone, however.
The Texas legislature also has the power to set public policy. The legislature has mandated by Statute that all drivers carry a minimum amount of automobile liability insurance. This is a public policy set by the legislature to ensure that there is some financial recourse when a person causes a wreck and injures another. Thus, they too could address this problem.
Call for Public Policy Change
When a business can turn a profit off children but ignore responsibility when they negligently cause them harm, society has failed its children as a whole. Trampoline parks in Texas have found a way to skirt liability for injuries they cause children by way of indemnity clauses in their jump contracts. The Texas Supreme Court has the power to strike down provisions of a contract as void against public policy. The Texas legislature has the power to pass laws to restrict what clauses can be put into contracts. It is time one of these branches of government took action to protect our children.