Swing-Set-150x150Swing sets are commonly placed, seen, and maintained on playgrounds.  When a child is injured during the use of swings on a playground, there may be liability or responsibilities on the part off the city, school, day care center, and / or owner of the property where the swing set is located.  There should be a distinction made between a person, business, or other entity who / that is the supervisor of children and a person, business, or other entity who / that is the owner of the property where the playground / swing set is located.
Supervision of Children
When a child is under the care and supervision of a school, day care center, summer camp, or other program, it is important that reasonable and necessary care be provided to the child.  Playground equipment and play should be age appropriate. Furthermore, children should be supervised in a reasonably careful manner.  Rough or dangerous play should be stopped immediately.  Swings are a known hazard for those playing around the swings and for those children on the swings.  As such, child care providers and supervisors should be on the look out for dangerous play that may result in personal injuries including injuries related to strangulation during playground use.  If a child while using swings is twisting and turning around, a child care provider should immediately step in as this is not the proper or safe use of the swing set.  If the dangerous play continues, the child care provider should promptly remove the child from the swing set area.

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A death that shook a family, neighborhood, and community is still under investigation according to a recent news report. Amari Harley, age 3, died on October 22 after getting stuck in a city septic tank system at a City of Jacksonville (Duval County) park.  The death certificate listed “accidental drowning” as the cause of death.  This means, that following the autopsy, it was determined that the drowning was the cause of the death rather than some other cause like a stroke, heart attack, or some kind of unknown or previously undiagnosed congenital medical condition.  While the cause of death has been established, the preventability and safety measures surrounding this incident are still under investigation.
This raises the question as to whether the City of Jacksonville should be held liable for the death of this child.  In other words, is the City of Jacksonville legally liable for this “accidental drowning”?  When evaluating a legal case involving a personal injury, research is often conducted by an attorney in form of a review of allocable laws, statutes, ordinances, and case law.  It is important that there is legal precedence or authority to pursue a case or claim on behalf of the injured child and the family.  There are essentially four elements associated with a negligence case or claim as follows:
1 – Duty;

Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;

Breach of Duty;

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Halloween is a holiday mostly celebrated by children and for children. There are also adult parties and adult participation; however, the core part of Halloween is the journey through the neighborhood engaged in the tradition of visiting houses and collecting candy just by virtue of the statement “Trick or Treat”.  Let’s face it, there is a certain paradise for children on Halloween which is in the form of “Free Candy”.   Dressing home and pretending to be a favorite Disney character or super hero is pretty cool as well.  For most children, Halloween evening / night is just about the best night of the year.  For others unfortunately, Halloween night can be the time in which a child suffers a serious personal injury or even dies due to the negligence of others.

Some tragic events that take place during Halloween can be avoided.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.  Some are fairly basic and well know.  Nevertheless, it is important to keep these tips in mind and actually follow them to make Halloween night as safe as possible:

Don’t Trick or Treat at All.  Find alternatives to the door-to-door trick or treat journey.  Have a party.  Have the neighbors gather together in one place for a candy distribution.  While it does seem counter intuitive to discourage traditional trick or treat activities, having children remain in one general area or home can avoid many accidents or incidents from taking place.

Scales-of-Justice-Yellow-and-Blue-150x150In the State of Florida, a property owner or landowner whether a private person, business, or government entity has a duty to maintain the premises under the property owner’s control in a reasonably safe manner. The is especially important for areas in which children are present.  It is well known that children, especially toddlers, are curious and will often wander into areas that are not built for the play or presence of children. For instance, it is important for property owners and landowners to fence off hazardous areas including those related to waterways, electrical equipment, steep areas, and any other areas in which a child may get stuck, trapped, or otherwise injured.
Septic or lift stations for restroom sewage can be commonly be seen in many Florida communities.  It is vital that the lids to septic or lift stations are safely secured and in place.  If there is any risk that a young child can remove the lid or slip through the lid into the hole into the ground or the septic area, a child can be at significant risk for drowning.  There are a number of causes for covers to be damages, unsecured, and out of place.  When this happens, it is important for a property owner to take swift action to seal off the area, and repair or replace the lid.
Attractive Nuisance is a legal concept in which applies to situation in which a child is lawfully on property or even trespassing on the premises. If the child is injured by an area or object that is likely to attract children, a property owner or landowner can be held liable if it can be shown that the property owner or landowner knew or should have known about the attractive nuisance but failed to take action to fix the problem, secure the dangerous area, or remove the danger area / problem from the premises.

Cruise-Ship-Injuries-Blue-150x150Cruise ship companies like Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and other carriers market to and welcome children as guests on the ship for both short and long term trips.  As such, cruise ships should be constructed and maintained in a reasonable manner that under maritime law.  The cruise ship operator had a duty to remove or limit hazards and to put reasonable necessary safety measures for both children and adults.  All interior and exterior passageways should be constructed and maintained according to applicable ship, building, and safety codes.  When an adult or child is injured as a passenger on a cruise ship, the cruise ship line, company, or operator is not automatically or strictly liability. There must be a showing of fault or liability for the incident at issue. This is commonly referred to as negligence which requires the proof or showing of four elements to establish a legal case or claim:  Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages.

It was recently reported by a number of media outlets that an eight year old girl who was a passenger on the ship – Glory – operated by Carnival Cruise Lines fell approximately 20 feet while inside the atrium area of the boat. It was reported that the medical team for the ship was soon thereafter on the scene to attend to the child. The incident took place while the ship was docked at the Port of Miami.  Since a serious injury occurred in the form of a death, there will be a full investigation by government authorities as well as an autopsy.  Concurrent or subsequent to the criminal investigation, there can also be an investigation by the family, private investigators, engineers, and, yes, a legal team hired by the family of the child.  Again, it should be noted that a cruise ship is not automatically liable for every single injury or death that occurs on a boat. Negligence or fault must be established to support a civil case or claim if one is pursued by the family of the child. You can read more about the Carnival Cruise Lines incident involving the 8 year old girl who fell at Girl as a Result of Fall at Port of Miami – Carnival Cruise Lines. 

It should be noted that cruise ship legal cases are much different than other types of injury cases like ones involving an automobile accident or a slip and fall while at a store or shopping center while on land.  The cruise line ticket can define and control time limits and court or forum choices for a legal case.  In addition, there are strict time limits by law for cruise ship / maritine cases.

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In Florida, a child should be able to ride a bike, spend time with friends, and play sports / games in a safe and nurturing environment.  Most neighborhoods in Florida are safe and filled with neighbors who are friendly, conscientious, and mindful of children in the area.  Unfortunately, at times, a child is injured in the very neighborhood in which the child resides or visits.  For some reason, some dogs have a sense of aggression or fear for children.  This could happen for a variety of reasons or no reason at all.  Because of the unpredictability of dogs and the risks to children, dog owners should use best efforts to keep a dog on a leash or otherwise confined.  When a dog is loose, there is a risk of attack to one or more children in the neighborhood.  In most of Florida’s 67 counties, there is a dog leash law that is referred in the local ordinance of many counties as “at-large dogs”.  It is important to keep a dog under control at all times.

When a dog is attacked or bitten in the State of Florida,  the law recognizes the rights of the injured child or injured adult.  Florida has adopted a Strict Liability law for dog bite and dog attack cases.  In other words, a dog owner is strictly liable for a dog bite or dog attack regardless of the prior history of the dog.  As such, even if a dog had never been aggressive in the past, a dog owner can still be liable for the injuries and related damages.  There are some exceptions to this general law or rule. For instance, if a child trespasses into the yard of neighbor with clearly posted Bad Dog or Beware of Dog signs, this may serve as a defense for the dog owner.  It should be noted that a dog owner can be held strictly liable while a property owner (who is not the dog owner) can typically only be held liable if there is a showing of negligence or fault on the part of the property owner.
One practical issue that presents itself in many dog bite cases involves the availability or the lack of availability of homeowner’s insurance that covers dog bite or dog attack personal injuries.  Unfortunately, many homeowner’s insurance policies these days exclude such coverage.   While there may be a strong legal case against the dog owner and property owner, there are a number of practical problems when there is no coverage for such incidents or injuries.

https://www.floridachildinjurylawyer.com/files/2017/08/Day-Care-Center-Hot-Van.001-150x150.jpegIn Florida and other warm weather States, the same tragic story seems to be reported every Spring and Summer.  A child is left by a day care center in a van or bus and dies as a result of hyperthermia.  The name of the child is different but the story seems to be the same.  The child was forgotten in the van or bus because roll call was not properly taken and double checked. These “Hot Car” or “Hot Van” deaths are among the easiest to prevent.  It does not require the investment of millions, thousands, or even hundreds of dollars to prevent.  It only requires a pen, paper, and the attentiveness of one staff member to prevent these deaths from taking place.  While it may be tedious to check and double check when children get on and off of a day care center or school bus – the mundane and tedious work is well worth the fact that the lives of children can be saved with this due diligence.  The fact is the we live in a world of distractions and multiple responsibilities on the part of day care centers and child care centers.  However, the fact that there are distractions and multiple responsibilities are never ever an excuse or defense to leaving a child alone in a hot van, car, or school bus.
A recent death of a 3 year old child in the Orlando area is yet one of many deaths reported when roll call or a head count was not properly completed.  When the temperature outside is in the 80s or 90s, the temperature inside in the vehicle can be 40 to 50 degrees or even hotter inside the vehicle.   In just a few minutes, a small child can go from healthy to dead when left alone and unattended in a hot day care center van, bus, or vehicle.  It was reported that Myles Hill, a 3 year old girl, was left on a day care center vehicle operated by Little Miracles Academy.  Following the death of the child, criminal charges were filed in the form of aggravated manslaughter by the State Attorney’s office.  You can read more about this topic at  3 Year Old Child Dies in Orlando Florida – Day Care Center Hot Van Death. 
When a child dies as a result of the negligence of a day care center, child care provider, summer camp, school, or other third party, the parents can file a wrongful death case against the responsible party, individual, and business.  In Florida, wrongful death cases are governed by both case law and statutes as set forth in Florida Statutes Chapter 768.

Building-Blocks-A-and-D-Day-Care-Center-Injuires-150x150Parents rely on others to provide child care during the work day, nights, and vacations as needed. Most child care providers do an excellent job in supervising the children in a safe and nurturing environment.  There are some child care providers who lack the patience, training, and common sense to provide quality care.  Parents should carefully choose the child care providers.  However, in some instances, parents have limited resources and choices and go with what is available, close, or convenient.  When a child care provider is negligent or careless, a case or claim can be brought against the child care provider.

As a Child Injury Lawyer, there are many factors to consider when evaluating a potential case against a child care provider for injuries to the child.  One important practical factor involves the available liability insurance and resources in place to compensate the injured child.  For instance, let’s day that a child is cared for in a family day care setting with three other children.   The day care center is not licensed and does not carry any liability insurance.  The owner of the day care center essentially lives “paycheck-to-paycheck” and has no assets to speak of.  While a 5 year old was under the care of the facility, he wandered into a closet with some chemicals and cleaners.  He mistakenly knocked over one of the bottles and suffered some rather serious burns to his hands.  Once the day care center found the child, 911 was called and the child was transported to a local emergency room.
Would this be a case of negligence that could be pursued against the owner of the day care center?  The answer to this excellent question is both “Yes” and “No”.  Well, that is a confusing answer.  There certainly would be a “legal” case to pursue against the day care center owner.   The four essential elements of a day care center case could be established:  Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages.  The chemicals and cleaners should have been locked up and kept out of the reach of the 5 year old child.  The day care center owner breached the duty to provide a safe environment for the child.  As a result of the breach of duty, the child was injured and suffered damages.  As such, it appears that the four elements of a “legal” case could be established; however, the case would most likely be hampered by the fact that the day care center owner has not assets or money to pay for a settlement or judgment associated with the personal injuries.  As such, from a “practical” standpoint, the case probably would not be pursued by most personal injury attorneys who should perform a “legal” and “practical” evaluation of the potential case.

Toy-Graphics-from-Free-Pik-copy-150x150In the State of Florida, the Department of Children and Families licenses, inspects, and otherwise regulates day care centers and child care facilities.   Inspections, training, staff to child ratios, and other aspects of the facility and child care operation must comfort with the applicable Florida laws and regulations related to child care centers or day care centers.  As a Florida Child Injury Lawyer, I am periodically asked what regulations apply to baby sitting or child care services provided at gyms and fitness centers.  Under Florida law and in particular Section 402.302 (2) – Definition – Child Care Facilities, a “child care facility” is defined as center or arrangement to provide care for more than five children in which the facility or center receives a fee or grant for payment for providing child care.
While one may think that any commercial establishment that provides care or supervision of children should be subject to regulations, licensure, and child care training and courses.  Unfortunately, gyms, fitness centers, and similar facilities that provide some form of child care or babysitting do not qualify as “child care centers” and as such do not require licensure, regulation, or oversight.  It is a bit frightening to conceptualize that babysitting and child care centers in gyms and fitness centers are not subject to the same rules as day care centers and child care centers that receive payment for these particular services.
Since licensure for a day care center is not required for child care as part of a gym or fitness facility, does this mean that the gym or fitness center avoids liability or responsibility when there is an injury to a child?  The answer to this question is “Absolutely Not.”  A gym or fitness center can be help liable if the gym or fitness center is determined to be negligent in fulfilling it duties sand responsibilities to provide a reasonably safe environment for children under the care of the business establishment.  To prove up a case, there must be evidence as to four elements of the case: