Is a Summer Camp, Day Care Center, or School Liable When a Child is Injured on a Playground Slide?

Play Time Written In Multicolored Plastic Kids Letters

Play Time at Day Care Centers, Schools, and Summer Camp

At most playgrounds, it is common to see a slide.  Children often enjoy playing on playgrounds and especially the joy and thrill of climbing up a slide and then sliding down.  If the slide is age appropriate and used correctly, most injuries from playground slides are avoided.   This also assumes that there is sufficient and reasonable supervision in place for all of the children on the playground including but not limited to the slide area – ladder, levels, slide, and landing.  Unfortunately, for some children, the playground slide is the location of a serious personal injury.   When a child is injured on a playground, the day care center, summer camp, property owner, school, or city / county entity may be liable for the resulting injuries and damages.   The liability or responsibility will depend on the ability to prove the four essential elements of a civil case or claim:

1. Duty;
2. Breach of Duty;
3. Causation; and
4. Damages.
Here are a couple of examples which could form the basis of a case in establishing each of the above elements.
Larger / Older Child or Adult Slides Down Slide with Child
One very dangerous thing to do is to slide down a slide with a child.   This can lead to serious injuries including but not limited to leg fractures.  If the rubber from the child’s shoe gets stuck on the slide on the way down, the weight of the adult or older child may, in turn, cause the leg to fracture.  If the child is too young or small to go down the slide on his or her own, it is advisable to avoid the slide for that child.  This same child may also lack the motor skills and judgment to be able to safety climb the stairs and / or platforms to get to the slide.
Child Suffers Burn Injuries from Use of Slide on a Hot Day
The child care providers should inspect all equipment prior to use.  The property owners should also use the best efforts to only place safe equipment on the playground.  If the equipment like the slide is prone to get hot on a frequent basis in which it caused burn injuries, the slide in question may need to be replaced or just simply removed.  Burn injuries are avoided with better equipment selection and installation OR with better supervision.
Child Slides Down Head First on the Slide
Here is another example in which the school, summer camp, or day care center can be held liable.  It is the duty and responsibility to provide supervision on the playground to make sure that the children properly use the equipment. It is well known that children lack good judgment.  As such, child care providers should be diligent while watching the children and make sure that any dangerous activities or use are prohibited and dealt with in a timely fashion.  Rules should be made clear to all of the children.  Any child disobeying the rules should be removed from the playground immediately in order to make the point clear to the other children that unsafe play or actions will not be tolerated.
The above are just a few examples.  It should be noted and emphasized that each potential case should be evaluated on its own facts and merits.  In some instances, the injury is unfortunate but not necessarily actionable.  Again, it will depend on the particular facts that led to the injury.
The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Playground Injuries, Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, and other topics. You can get his book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.