Duty of care is the basis of any negligence claim. In tort law, it’s the legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of care reasonable while performing an act that could foreseeably injure others.
If defendant owed no duty of care to plaintiff or a limited duty of care to plaintiff, it may be very difficult or impossible to prove negligence.
Businesses owe customers a duty of care, though the level of that may vary depending on:
- The type of business;
- The specific hazards therein;
- The age of customers.
For example, a day care business will owe a much higher duty of care to the children in its care than will a grocery store to shoppers. What exactly that level is might be up for dispute in individual cases.
In a recent case before the Idaho Supreme Court, the question was what level of care a trampoline park owed to minor patrons doing flips in a foam pit. These parks have grown increasingly popular across the country, and most require patrons or their parents to sign a waiver prior to entrance. That waiver of liability in and of itself can undercut a personal injury lawsuit, but it depends on the language of that contract and the nature of the injury.
In this case, a 17-year-old boy suffered serious injury in 2014 when he tried a triple front flip into a pit of foam blocks at a trampoline park. Plaintiff was there at the facility with his girlfriend and her two younger siblings. He did several double front flips, which one monitor saw and commented was “pretty sweet.” Plaintiff continued performing them, and noticed they were getting easier. Emboldened, he tried to complete a triple front flip
However, he failed to fully rotate, landing on his head and neck, breaking his neck and requiring cervical fusion.
Plaintiff subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the trampoline park alleging the business acted negligently and as a result caused him injury. He asserted that because he was still a minor, the business owed a duty of care to supervise him and this failure to do so was the direct cause of his actions resulting injury. He was purposely landing on his back while doing double flips, he said, he was trying to avoid landing on his feet because he feared that to do so would risk striking his head on his knees.
The workers’ manual required employees of the business to abide and continuously enforce the rules on the wall near the various activities. Signs near the wall of the foam pit warned customers to jump in feet first. Plaintiff stated that had the employee/ monitor enforced this rule, he would not have even tried to attempt the triple flip that eventually caused him injury.
Defendant moved for summary judgment, alleging no negligence based on expert witness opinion that industry standards allow front flips into a foam pit on one’s feet, behind or back, and that evidence of causation was lacking. Plaintiff countered that the sign on the wall indicating how customers were to land established the applicable standard of care. Further, he asserted that the monitor’s failure to reprimand him for landing incorrectly or to discourage him from attempting a tougher move were causal.
Trial court granted the summary judgment motion, and plaintiff appealed.
The state supreme court said the issue of causation in this case is why plaintiff attempted that triple front flip. He didn’t tell anyone he was going to try it and there isn’t any indication the monitor knew or should have known he was going to try it. Plaintiff argues he was entitled to a reasonable inference that if the company had enforced his rules and stepped in when he landed improperly and perilously on his back, he wouldn’t have felt encouraged to continue trying even more dangerous moves.
The court noted there is firstly no evidence presented that it was hazardous to land on one’s back. Secondly, there was no indication that the monitor’s comments or failure to intercede played a causal role in plaintiff’s decision to complete the flip.
Thus, the grant of summary judgment was affirmed.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Griffith v. Jumptime Meridian, April 10, 2017, Idaho Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
N.C. Appeals Court: City Not Immune From Liability in Slip-and-Fall Injury Lawsuit, April 3, 2017, Child Injury Lawyer Blog