The Dangers of Inflatable Bounce Houses in Florida
Once again, a childhood pastime turned into a terrifying event as another inflatable bounce house took flight and caused injuries. According to a report by ABC News, an inflatable slide took flight over the weekend at an Independence Day celebration in Nevada. Three people were reportedly injured when a strong gust of wind pushed it from the tethers that are meant to hold it in place. The slide then rose over 300 feet into the air, knocking down several light posts along the way.
This is not the first reported incident of a bounce house taking flight. In May of this year, two young children were hospitalized when an inflatable bounce house broke loose from its ties. The children were trapped them inside as the house continuously rolled through a park. Earlier in the year, viewers were horrified as videos of a bounce house flying through the air, with children inside, inundated the airwaves.
The Bounce House Phenomena
Bounce houses have significantly grown in population over the last few years, as their availability has increased. These child magnets are a staple of birthday parties and other kid-friendly events. Despite the growing popularity, the industry remains widely unregulated. Pediatrician Gary Smith is president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. He is quoted in the article as stating that the Consumer Product Safety Board is thus far only making recommendations regarding the inflatable houses. He further stated, “They’re [so] very keen to take a look at this that they might step in and make some stronger recommendations.”
In 2012, the Journal of Pediatrics published a finding that child injuries in bounce houses doubled between 2008 and 2010. More than 11,000 children were injured in 2010, which is reportedly 16 times the number injured in 1995. These numbers are equal to about one injury every 46 minutes. Study authors label the situation as an epidemic. Broken bones were the most common ailment, but bruises and concussions were also reported.
Smith advises parents to practice some due diligence when allowing their children to use the inflatable bounce houses. Parents should inquire about the operators experience and what safety measures are in place in case of an emergency. He also recommends that parents not allow their children to participate in windy weather conditions.
While many companies require parents to sign a waiver of liability before a child can enter the bounce house, there are arguments that an experienced lawyer can make to negate the waiver. Liability waivers must adhere to state specific laws and regulations. In Florida, they must be unambiguously clear about the intent of the document, warning the parties about the risk involved in the accident and advising that the company is not liable for those risks. If the waiver does not follow these rules, the courts may invalidate it. Florida courts have also found that waivers may not protect businesses when negligence is involved.