Everyone has seen the inflatable “bounce houses” and similar amusements that seem to have become almost mandatory at children’s birthday parties. Fortunately, most families rent one of these “inflatable amusement devices” from a local vendor and the kids enjoy themselves without incident for an afternoon or evening. This was not the case in a recent accident near Lincoln, NE.
In today’s post the personal injury and defective consumer product lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will give a summary of the facts in that accident as they are known at this time. He will then review what have historically been the most common factors in such accidents.
A two-year-old boy died Thursday afternoon after being injured in a “freak accident” involving a “bounce pillow” on Wednesday.
The Lincoln (NE) Star-Journal reported that 2-year-old Caleb Acuna was pronounced dead early Thursday afternoon and was removed from life support Friday morning. The preliminary cause of death was listed as brain injury secondary to severe head trauma.
According to witnesses Caleb, along with his 5-year-old sister Acuna and their parents, were visiting a seasonal attraction known as JK’s Pumpkin Patch as members of a local church group and had been playing on the bounce pillow in the minutes prior to the accident when a sudden gust of wind ripped the device from its moorings in the ground. Caleb’s parents and sister were able to safely get off the pillow, but Caleb became trapped in its folds of fabric. He was tossed some 30 to 40 feet and sustained massive head trauma. His sister was treated for a broken arm and his parents were reported as being uninjured.
In the same story the Star-Journal stated that the Lincoln office of the National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory earlier Wednesday afternoon, cautioning that wind gusts of 60 mph were possible.
Are inflatable attractions safe?
Given the relatively few serious accidents that have been reported, when properly “set-up” and monitored, inflatables seem to pose no great risk of injury. However, given the increasing number of vendors offering such products for sale or rent and the lack of industry-wide safety standards, this may be subject to change.
According to the “trade group” (actually, inflatable amusement device marketer) Bounce Houses Now, each state and/or municipality is responsible for establishing its own regulations regarding commercial inflatable amusement devices. As you might imagine, a review of the available information demonstrates “considerable variation” in how vigorously such laws and regulations are enforced (if they exist at all). In many states, the same often-understaffed agency charged with supervising traveling carnivals and circuses must also inspect the ever-increasing number of inflatable amusement vendors.
In the absence of uniform laws and regulations at both the national and state levels “best practices,” such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s (CPSC) AMUSEMENT RIDE SAFETY BULLETIN: Inflatable Amusement Devices, Residential and Commercial Guidance (August 2015) must serve as the de facto industry safety reference. Although it lacks the “force of law” that would require commercial inflatable amusement device to follow its recommendations, if an injury occurs and it is later determined that an operator failed to make a good faith effort at compliance, most courts will view such a failure as an act of negligence and would expose the operator to liability for damages.
Potential Liability Issues
Although the investigation into this tragedy is in its earliest stages, personal injury lawyers have long recognized that there are usually three factors that play a role in bounce house accidents.
Failure to comply with local licensing / permit process
This does not appear to have been a factor since the owner of JK’s Pumpkin Patch, Josh Kadavy, apparently had met the Lancaster County (NE) licensing and permit requirements and, according to the Star-Tribune and KUTV, the county commissioners had issued a business license in August.
Defective product design / manufacture
Products such as bounce “houses” and bounce “cushions” (a bounce house without walls) are intentionally manufactured out of very light but sturdy fabrics and are then filled with air. This makes them inherently unstable in all but the mildest, gentlest breezes. It is unknown if anyone sounded a warning that weather conditions were deteriorating prior to the accident, but even the best-constructed and most carefully operated inflatable becomes dangerous in winds above 15 to 20 mph. As mentioned, the wind gust that caused this accident was estimated to have been at 60 mph.
Improper installation / operation
Again according to news reports, the “bounce cushion” had been in use for several hours prior to the accident and appeared to have been functioning properly. As noted in the previous section, the wind speeds that had been reported in the minutes prior to the accident were strong enough to have been rated as “tropical storm” in velocity. Based on the available early data, there appears to be no defensible reason for the inflatable to have been in use late Wednesday afternoon.
Have an experienced personal injury and product liability lawyer investigate your bounce house accident injury case
When investigating an accident such as this, it is often necessary to retain the services of a lawyer with experience in conducting exhaustive investigations of complicated cases where there is more than one defendant that may have contributed to the chain of events leading to a tragedy.
One lawyer with extensive experience in both personal injury and defective consumer product law is The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with branch offices located in major cities throughout country.
When you have the Doan Law Firm’s personal injury and defective product lawyer on your side, you will make use of our firm’s years of experience in managing complex lawsuits where there is more than one defendant that is being held accountable for their actions. In fact, you start making use of our experienced team of lawyers, paralegals, and investigators when you contact us to arrange a free, no obligation, review of your bounce house injury case.
If you decide that the Doan Law Firm should represent you in your Bounce House accident case, we are always willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects, including financial, of preparing your case for trial. This means that we will advance you any and all expenses necessary for you to build the strongest case possible. In other words, we take on all the financial risks and you owe us nothing unless your win your case!