Many parents assume indoor play areas, such as those at many fast-food chains, are reasonably safe for kids. After all, manufacturers design indoor play areas specifically for young children. They should not contain hazards or defects that put kids’ lives in danger. Unfortunately, defective products, failure to adhere to safety standards, negligent maintenance and many other problems lead to unsafe play structures around the country. Parents should be aware of the dangers indoor play areas can pose. If an accident happens, the establishment and/or play structure manufacturer could be liable.
Falls and impacts with moving equipment account for 74% of child playground injuries, according to one Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study. Falls and impacts can occur due to defectively designed playground equipment, lack of parental supervision and maintenance negligence. Falls are a major cause of serious and fatal child injuries in indoor play areas.
Although no manufacturer has the power to prevent all falls, they should reasonably reduce the risk through safe equipment designs. Establishments should also decrease the risk of serious injuries by installing safe floors. The floor material should be padded enough to reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury if a child falls and hits his or her head. Dangerous wood or tile floors could unreasonably increase the odds of slip & fall injuries.
Many indoor play areas have equipment with inherently unsafe designs or manufacturing flaws. The CPSC is always announcing new playground equipment recalls due to potential hazards to young children. In December 2019, for example, BCI Burke recalled its Merge Playground Climber due to a potential entrapment hazard. The company recalled 440 units after realizing the open welded rungs on the sides of the climber could potentially entrap and injure children. This is just one of thousands of examples of defective playground equipment over the years.
Manufacturers owe a duty of care not to design, produce or market defective or dangerous products. If a defective piece of indoor play area equipment causes an injury, the manufacturer or distributor could be liable for damages. Texas’ strict product liability laws may hold the manufacturer responsible for any injuries or deaths a product defect causes whether or not the manufacturer was negligent.
Some indoor play areas contain preventable hazards for young children, such as sharp corners or edges. A child could trip and fall into the sharp edge, striking his or her face, head, neck or other body parts. A sharp edge could cause injuries such as lacerations, bruises, head injuries, concussions, muscle damage and broken bones. It is up to the establishment that has the indoor play area to inspect for sharp edges or other common child safety risks and to remedy them before inviting children to play. Otherwise, the restaurant could be liable for injuries under Texas’ premises liability laws.
It is also up to establishments to keep indoor play areas clean, hygienic and sanitary. A restaurant staff member should inspect the play area regularly to check for hazards such as dirty diapers, defecation, urine, vomit, blood or other biohazards from children using the play equipment. They should also check for rotten food or spilled drinks. Unclean indoor play areas could lead to bacteria, fungus, mold and other health hazards that could cause illnesses or infections in children.
If an indoor play area injury stemmed from a defective product, the manufacturer could be liable. If it arose from a negligent restaurant or fast-food chain, the establishment could be liable instead. Parents should work with personal injury attorneys to understand who might be responsible for indoor play area injuries in Houston.