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Serious Injuries Cast Shadow on Trampline Park Safety

SEATTLE - For a surprisingly large number of parents, a seemingly innocent trip to a local trampoline park can end with a trip for their children to the emergency room - or worse - due to failing equipment, poor supervision and overcrowding, Seattle attorney Sim Osborn warns.

Sky High Sports trampoline park in Bellevue, Wash., has been the target of at least 15 lawsuits, including one filed today. The suits filed by Osborn are on behalf of children and adults who suffered broken bones and fractures while using the facility.

Sky High Sports trampoline park in Bellevue, Wash., has been the target of at least 15 lawsuits, including one filed today. The suits filed by Osborn are on behalf of children and adults who suffered broken bones and fractures while using the facility.

Four of these lawsuits have settled, despite waivers signed by the plaintiffs to hold Sky High harmless for injuries. The court has ruled that their waivers are unenforceable and null and void for individuals under age 18 in Washington, and may be called into question in other states.

Sky High has responded to these lawsuits by defending its position to be able to sue parents of injured children for indemnification, asking the court to force the families to repay the company the amount of the settlement or verdict it paid to the minor, and its legal fees, after the case for the minor is complete.

Osborn said the suits highlight concerns over safety at trampoline parks across the United States. The suits allege that the trampoline accidents occurred because Sky High was negligent, failing to properly design and maintain equipment, as well as supervise guests.

Sky High operates several trampoline parks around the country, which feature a series of connected trampolines for guests - most commonly children - to jump on and between.

“Action sports involve inherent risks, but I believe the potential danger of trampoline parks is much higher than most parents realize,” said Tom Rayfield of Sammamish. “My son destroyed his ankle despite the ‘safety measures’ that Sky High claims to use. Now, we want to warn other families to stay away, and to consider legal help if they have been injured.”

According to court documents, Rayfield’s son jumped and landed between two trampolines, dislocating and fracturing his ankle. The lawsuit alleged that Sky High was negligent in ensuring a safe environment for jumpers, failing to guard the space between the trampolines or provide adequate supervision of the play area. Although a liability waiver was signed, he was still able to bring the claim. That case has now settled.

In recent years, trampoline safety at Sky High and other similar facilities has come under closer scrutiny as a number of children and adults have experienced serious injuries. Last February, a Phoenix man died when he broke his neck jumping into a foam pit at SkyPark, a facility similar to Sky High.

Despite the danger, trampoline parks are a growing industry. Sky High was founded in California in 2006, and has since expanded to 16 cities across the United States. Sky High’s competitors have also expanded quickly in recent years.

“The public has not fully grasped the serious danger posed by trampoline parks,” said Osborn. “Parents would do well to exercise caution before allowing their kids to visit these facilities.”

Improper use of trampolines has long been associated with injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that more than 92,000 emergency room visits were associated with trampolines in 2010. This is up from fewer than 38,000 visits in 1991, a nearly 150 percent increase in just 20 years.

Experts have also warned of the dangers of trampolines. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “It is not advised that children play on trampolines. The only time trampolines should be used is for training programs or certain sports, and then only under supervision of a trained adult.”

According to Osborn, trampoline parks magnify these dangers. “Parents should remember that trampoline parks are still a largely unregulated industry,” he said. “We have found lapses in safety and maintenance procedures that dramatically increase the risk of serious injury, especially to children.”

Nationally recognized gymnastics coach and trampoline safety expert Don McPherson agrees. “The cardinal rule of trampolining is that there should only be one person on a trampoline at a time, including while entering and exiting the trampoline. It’s been that way for 50 years,” he said. “The dangerous practices at these trampoline parks fly in the face of this and countless other safety fundamentals we use in the gymnastics community.”

Osborn believes that there may be other victims who have yet to come forward. "These individuals should be aware that in Washington, the liability waivers signed by minors, or by parents on behalf of minors, have already been ruled null and void, allowing victims to file a legal claim against the trampoline manufacturer or park operators for their injuries," he said.

Individuals who were injured while jumping at a Sky High or other trampoline facility can contact Sim Osborn by calling or emailing Osborn Machler PLLC. 

Editorial note: Sim Osborn is available for interviews to discuss this issue in more detail.

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