The parents of a 4-year-old boy who was seriously injured at a trampoline park in Fort Worth, Texas, filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages for several years of medical treatments the boy will need for his damaged leg.
The boy, who has already undergone several surgeries, will have to see an orthopedic specialist twice a year until he is 18.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the lawsuit states that the boy was on a trampoline at Flight Deck Trampoline Park when other larger park visitors entered his trampoline against the park rules.
The trampoline park’s safety rules stipulate that only one person can occupy a trampoline at a time. The complaint alleges that the trampoline park employees failed to blow a whistle as the park’s policies require and took no action to stop the other jumpers.
Subsequently, the force of the other jumpers had a recoil effect that propelled the young boy far into the air and slammed him down on the trampoline. The impact fractured the growth plate areas of his tibia and fibula.
Because Salter-Harris fractures affect the growth plates, they can lead to abnormal growth of the affected limb if not regularly checked and properly treated. In addition to seeing an orthopedic specialist twice per year, the boy will also be prohibited from playing sports, the lawsuit claims.
The parents allege that the trampoline park was negligent in failing to provide adequate supervision of minor children and in failing to enforce its own single-occupancy rule.
According to the Star-Telegram, Flight Deck trampoline park requires visitors to sign a waiver releasing the park from liability for personal injury or death. By signing, the visitor acknowledges that participation in the park poses “known and unknown risks that are inherently dangerous and that can result in personal injury, including physical and emotional injury, paralysis, death or damage.” The signees also acknowledge they have health insurance.
Forced arbitration agreements like the one used by the Fort Worth trampoline park have become standard in trampoline parks across the country. These agreements essentially require individuals who want to use the park facilities to give up their legal rights first, sparking a pushback by some legislators.
Pro-consumer legislation proposed
According to CBS News, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is sponsoring legislation that would hold trampoline parks accountable for the injuries occurring inside their facilities. In many cases, visitors sign waivers with forced arbitration clauses, meaning they give up the right to take their cases to court. Sen. Blumenthal is sponsoring the Fair Act, which would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in consumer cases.
“I was horrified as a parent, not to mention a public official,” Sen. Blumenthal told CBS News. “Trampoline parks want to avoid justice. They want to rig the system against anyone who is injured who may assert claims against them.”
He also accused the parks of “trying to hide individual deaths, the total number. Everything about these injuries that may cast them in a bad light.”
This is especially troubling given the proliferation of trampoline parks across the county in recent years.
Soaring trampoline injury rates
In 2011, there were approximately 40 trampoline parks nationwide. Now, that number has soared to more than 800 and there is no federal oversight, only voluntary safety standards.
Using national hospital data, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 2016, 103,512 kids younger than 18 visited emergency rooms with trampoline injuries.
Seventy-five percent of trampoline injuries happen when more than one person jumps on a single trampoline. When there are multiple jumpers, children are the most likely to suffer serious injury. In fact, children younger than 16 account for 93% of trampoline-related fractures.
Sadly, one in 200 trampoline injuries leads to permanent neurological damage to the spine and traumatic brain injuries.
Sen. Blumenthal told CBS News that safety regulations for trampoline parks are important, but accountability is key.
“Congress should have a role here … but the biggest deterrent to death and injury at these parks will be the park owners being hauled into court, held responsible, deemed culpable, having to pay,” Sen. Blumenthal said.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Lawsuit: Boy, 4, must see doctor every 6 months until he’s 18 after trampoline park injury
CBS News: Senator accuses popular trampoline parks of “trying to hide” deaths and injuries
NBC News: Trampolines are no place for kids, docs warn
Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention, Care & Cure: Trampoline Injuries
Huffington Post: The Number Of Trampoline-Related Injuries Is Higher Than You Thought
Slate: Think Again Before Letting Your Kid on a Trampoline