In 2010, more than 92,000 people went to an emergency room as a result of trampoline-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The most common causes of trampoline injuries were:
- colliding with another person
- landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts
- falling or jumping off of the trampoline, and
- falling on the trampoline springs or frame.
When people are injured on trampolines, homeowners may be liable. In the sections that follow, we'll illustrate some safety precautions that homeowners can take to reduce the likelihood of a trampoline-related injury and to reduce the likelihood of liability even in the event of an injury. Then we'll turn to the legal theories under which an injured person may be able to sue a homeowner for injuries resulting from a trampoline accident.
From a legal standpoint for trampoline owners, taking safety precautions is beneficial for two reasons. First, it reduces the likelihood of injuries. Second, even if someone does become injured, the homeowner will be more likely to prevail in court because he or she will be able to argue that all of the appropriate safety precautions were taken.
To maximize trampoline safety, the CPSC has this advice for parents and homeowners:
- Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
- Do not attempt or allow somersaults.
- Do not use the trampoline without shock absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks, and frame.
- Place the trampoline away from structures, trees, and other play areas.
- No child under six years of age should use a full sized trampoline.
- Do not use a ladder with the trampoline because it provides unsupervised access to small children.
- Always supervise children who use a trampoline.
- Prevent falls off of a trampoline with a trampoline enclosure.
Liability for trampoline injuries is a matter of state laws, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But generally speaking, a trampoline owner will be liable for injuries if the owner’s negligence caused the injuries.
Negligence. In many different situations, homeowners and others have a legal obligation to exercise appropriate care when it comes to the safety of people who are visiting their property. Anyone who breaches that duty may be deemed negligent in the eyes of the law, and may be on the legal hook for any resulting injuries.
When it comes to a backyard trampoline, homeowners have a duty to take reasonable steps to make sure the equipment is in good condition and is being used properly. A homeowner's failure to adhere to the trampoline safety precautions discussed above might amount to a breach of this legal duty, in the eyes of a court. For example, a property owner might be deemed negligent for allowing young children to play on an old trampoline even though it has a dangerous metal frame exposed, or for allowing children to use the trampoline without supervision.
In some states, a trampoline owner may be liable for injuries even if he or she takes reasonable safety precautions. In those states, a trampoline is said to be an "attractive nuisance" which gives rise to a property owner's heightened duty to protect kids from injury, and that's often true even when children are technically trespassing. Learn more about attractive nuisance laws.
Causation. For a property owner to be liable for trampoline-related injuries, the owner’s negligence must have actually caused the injuries. For example, imagine an owner leaves a small ladder next to a trampoline. A 14-year-old child from the neighborhood uses the trampoline and becomes injured. The owner probably acted negligently by leaving the ladder next to the trampoline. But the negligence probably did not actually cause the injuries. A 14-year-old child could get onto a trampoline without using a ladder. So, the negligence could be said to be unrelated to the resulting injuries, and the homeowner may not necessarily be liable
Since the rules regarding trampoline liability vary significantly by state, this discussion is limited to general principles of law. For more specific details about legal liability for trampoline accidents, consult the laws of your state or a local attorney.