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Claims Examples – Playgrounds

The following claims are good examples of what courts view as important factors in determining when a school board may be held negligent. These cases allow us to learn what we can improve, or reinforce the good practices that are in place. The following are two common claims examples that have been brought against school boards in recent years.

Example #1 – Ground Cover Depth

Brief Description of Incident:
A six year old student slipped from the monkey bars and sustained a spiral fracture to the right femur. The injury adversely affected the growth plate resulting in a 1 cm shortening of the right leg. Treatment included 13 days of traction and placement in a body cast for an extended period of time. It was alleged that the playstructure was wet causing the plaintiff to lose his grip and that the ground cover was also insufficient.

Outcome – Claim Paid
The liability exposure in this case relates to the depth of the ground cover being inadequate for the height of the equipment (2.1 meters) in the school yard. The minimum depth of the given material necessary to protect against injuries from a fall height of 2.1 meters is 225 mm of uncompressed depth. It was learned that in the area where the student fell usually had less ground cover. As the students fall in the spot in question, they push the ground cover aside with their feet. This explains why in the general areas of the play structure 101.6 mm of ground cover was found and only 50.8 mm where this student fell.

Supervision, inspections and maintenance all appeared reasonable.

If this case had been brought before the courts, we believe that the school board would be held 100% responsible for the injury sustained. Had adequate ground cover been present, the student’s injuries may have been significantly reduced. Settlement was negotiated between OSBIE and Plaintiff’s Counsel prior to the issuance and service of the Statement of Claim. Settlement was agreed to in the amount of $125,000.00 all inclusive.

Risk Management Tip:
Maintaining the protective surfacing to at least the MINIMUM depth as indicated by the CSA playground standard is crucial to providing reliable protection against injury and one of the most effective risk management strategies to reduce serious playground injuries.

Example #2 – Supervision

At the time of the incident, the class had just returned from a school field trip to the local library. As it was close to the end of the day for the students, they were allowed to play on the playground equipment for the last 20 minutes of the school day. A five year old claimant was at the play structure when another student jumped and accidentally fell onto the claimant’s leg causing a fractured femur that required surgery.

It was alleged that lack of proper supervision was the determining factor for this claim.

Outcome – Claim Denied
The investigation revealed that prior to allowing the students to play on the playground apparatus, the students had been reminded of the rules, one of which was that they were not to jump from the apparatus to the ground. The playground apparatus had been inspected earlier that day and found to be in good condition. The pea gravel was inspected following the incident and was found to be 127 to 150 mm in depth and quite loose which complies with CSA standards. Supervision was more than adequate. It would be difficult to see how liability could be found against the school board in these circumstances. It appears that the incident was accidental and occurred too spontaneously to have been prevented by supervision.

Liability was denied.