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Premises liability: Can you sue for schoolyard injuries?

Children of all ages can suffer injuries on the playground or other areas at their schools. New York schools typically require parents to sign liability waivers at the start of each school year to avoid facing premises liability lawsuits. However, not all waivers are enforceable, and a court may deem waivers invalid if specific criteria are not met. Waivers must be explicit and unambiguous and printed clearly instead of in small print in inconspicuous places on the documents.

Waivers that meet required criteria can prevent lawsuits for ordinary negligence, but if parents can prove that a child's injuries resulted from gross negligence on the part of the school or its staff, grounds may exist. A waiver might cover an injury caused by a loose bolt that escaped the notice of a teacher who inspected the playground equipment. In contrast, the total lack of care or excessive departure from reasonable care might be deemed recklessness or gross negligence.

Reasonable care typically requires schools, teachers and administrators to supervise children in their care, and also the spaces in which children work or play. If, for example, a small child falls from a playground structure while he or she is playing unsupervised, it might constitute gross negligence. A waiver could also be unenforceable regarding incidents in which staff or other students intentionally injure children. Another form of gross negligence could lead to a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of playground equipment if a defect or malfunction caused injuries.

This is a complicated field of the law, and New York parents who have questions about signing waivers can arrange a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Legal counsel can also assess the circumstances of playground or other school-related injuries to determine the viability of a premises liability lawsuit. The civil justice system of the state allow injured victims to recover financial and emotional damages brought about by the gross negligence of other parties.

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