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Infant-Plaintiff’s Conduct Caused Playground Accident (NY)

June 3, 2016

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Remember back when kids would play at the playground, scrape a knee, and then sue the school and classmate?  Neither do we.  But alas, claims like this are becoming more an more common nowadays.
Thankfully, the Second Department recently affirmed trial court's decision granting summary judgment to a school in <em><a href="">Simionides v. Eastchester Union Free Sch. Dist</a></em> 2016 NY Slip Op 04197.  A seven year old plaintiff was injured during while playing tag.  She apparently began to slide down a slide on her knees, attempted to straighten her legs, which caused her to fall off the slide.
Plaintiff alleged that the incident occurred due to the negligent supervision of the defendant school district . The Court disagreed. The Court found that not only had the infant-plaintiff been warned of correct usage of the slide, and appropriate recess behavior on many occasions, but that the children were adequately supervised.
There were two monitors on the playground per 40-42 students; a ratio which the Court felt satisfied the school’s duty to monitor its students. Notwithstanding that decision, the Court further held that the infant-plaintiff’s own action, of misusing the equipment, was the sole proximate cause of the incident. As such, even if more supervision was required, it would not have prevented the incident from occurring.
This decision limits the reach of tort liability against schools and playground owners wherein a child’s own actions caused a playground accident, and may help develop a trend in denying tort liability in cases where the children are both supervised and warned of the dangers of misused playground equipment.
Thanks to Dana Purcaro for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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