If you are the parent or guardian of a West Virginia minor injured at a trampoline park in West Virginia, you are in the correct place. We can help you figure out your next move.
Most of the trampoline parks will tell you that you have no case, no matter what the circumstances. They will suggest that the waiver that may have been signed is the end of the story. What these big-box trampoline parks won’t tell you, is that waivers are not air-tight, and may even be completely invalid. They won’t tell you that West Virginia Courts may have held in the past that a waiver executed by a parent on behalf of a minor child is invalid.
The waiver itself is typically relatively straight forward. You often sign away your child’s rights, including the right to bring a future lawsuit, even if the trampoline park to act negligently. You typically have no bargaining power, and if your child wants to join their friends or birthday party, you must sign it.
Unless you printed the form, the waiver you signed was probably electronic. You most likely spent less than a minute reading the document. Many of the waivers have a section that states “you have the right to contact an attorney.” Virtually none do.
However, now is the time to contact an attorney. Don’t be fooled by the trampoline park who convinced you that you can’t sue them if they were negligent in causing an injury to your minor child. That’s not necessarily the case! At least not in West Virginia.
Can I still file a lawsuit?
You can absolutely file a lawsuit. The real question is, will I win? The answer to that depends entirely on the facts at hand. West Virginia case law has been plaintiff friendly in terms of waivers signed by parents on behalf of their minor child. While no honest lawyer can ever guarantee victory in a lawsuit, you certainly have a chance.
If you want to continue learning more about West Virginia case law, keep reading. Below is a summary of a seminal case in West Virginia regarding liability waivers signed by parents on behalf of a minor child, their validity, and a few other useful resources.
The case of Johnson v. New River Scenic Whitewater Tours, Inc., was heard by the West Virginia Southern District Court. In Johnson, a teenage girl was going on a whitewater rafting trip which was sponsored by a church. The pastor, as instructed by the rafting company, singed the following waiver for the minor child:
“In consideration for Lindsay Gillespie (Print Name) (“minor”) being permitted by NEW RIVER SCENIC WHITEWATER TOURS to participate in its recreational events and activities, I agree to this WAIVER, RELEASE AND INDEMNIFICATION; the undersigned parent and/or guardian of the minor, for themselves and on behalf of the minor, join in the foregoing WAIVER AND RELEASE and stipulates and agrees to SAVE AND HOLD HARMLESS, INDEMNIFY, AND FOREVER DEFEND NEW RIVER SCENIC WHITEWATER TOURS from and against any claims, actions, demands, expenses, liabilities (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) and NEGLIGENCE made or brought by the minor or by anyone on behalf of the minor, as a result of the minor’s participation in NEW RIVER SCENIC WHITEWATER TOURS sponsored recreational events and activities and the use of the facilities of NEW RIVER SCENIC WHITEWATER TOURS.” https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/313/621/2580718/
Unfortunately, the teenage girl flipped over in the raft and drowned to death before she could be rescued. The parents of the child sued the rafting company on grounds that the waiver was not enforceable on grounds of West Virginia public policy, and also because the Pastor had no consent to sign the document on the child’s behalf.
The Court ultimately found that the waiver was unenforceable and void against public policy. The Court stated that “If a parent were able to waive liability on behalf of a minor, the responsibility for paying for any harm suffered by the minor (in particular, medical expenses) would necessarily be borne by the parent, who is obligated to care for her child.”
While the Johnson case is slightly different, considering part of the focus was on a safety statute that could not be neglected or sidestepped because of a waiver, trampoline parks may not be that different. West Virginia courts seem to understand the importance of protecting minor children against shifting of liability and abuse of power.
No case is a guarantee . . . but all cases are worth investigating. We cannot stress enough the importance of calling an attorney to investigate your possible case. The Johnson case provides some hope for obtaining some justice in these situations.
Trampoline Park Injuries
Trampoline parks can be lots of fun. Kids jumping with their friends and family, having a great time, all sounds great, until it’s not. Often times, trampoline parks lead to dangerous conditions, overcrowding, poor supervision, all adding up to a severe injury for a child. As lawyers, we know a little bit about personal injuries, but we also know that we aren’t doctors.
That’s why this section is compiled of real opinions of medical doctors from throughout the country about the dangers of trampoline parks. So if you don’t take our word for it, at least consider the word of the orthopedic surgeons who operate on hundreds of broken bones due to trampoline park injures a year. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/4/774
Dr. Monica Kogan of Midwest Orthopedics states that “trampolines should not be regarded as a toy.” Between the years of 2002-2011, it’s estimated that trampoline parks and backyard trampolines caused about 288,876 fractures. That converted to about $1billion dollars in emergency room visits. Yes, $1 billion. https://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2017/06/30/279194.htm
Simple math allows us to calculate that in 10 years, an average of 79 fractures a day occurred from trampoline use.
Still think they are safe? Likely not. Head and neck injuries account for at least 10% of the ER visits due to trampoline use. That’s approximately 8 ER visits a day for head and heck injuries from trampoline use. This is not just trampoline park injuries, but also backyard trampoline use.
Furthermore, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have stated that children under 6 should NEVER be jumping on a trampoline. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that “recreational trampoline use” is “strongly discouraged.” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/4/774
With an estimated half a dozen new trampoline parks opening each month, the likelihood of injury is not slowing down. If you’re on the page as a precaution, we urge you to think twice about sending your child to a jump park. If you’re on this page because your child was injured in a trampoline park, and you think someone else’s negligence was at play, we urge you to take action. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Emergency-Room-Visits-Jump-As-Trampoline-Parks-Gain-In-Popularity.aspx
Real parents . . . Real reviews
The following is just a sample of reviews for local trampoline parks with concerns shared by local parents.
One mother was concerned about the capacity in the trampoline park, as the “one person per square” rule seemed to be violated:
“They should have a limit on how many should be in There..took kids 15 minutes to get on on trampoline or obstacle courses ect..place sucks..and customer service is even worse.”
Another mother notes the fun, but also commented on the overcrowding, which is a common precursor to a serious injury:
“My kids loved it BUT you all let way to many people in at a time the smaller kids can’t have fun we was there for a hour and you couldn’t move for all the people I think you all should have a limits on how many people is in there if a fire broke out everyone couldn’t get out.”
West Virginia Trampoline Parks
The list below is not a list of parks who have been sued, or should be sued, it’s meant to provide a list of parks you may recognize or have attended with your child.
- Launch Pad Trampoline park in Westover
- Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Charleston (was recently sued.)