In other posts we have discussed the underappreciated dangers of “bounce houses” and other types of “inflatable recreation devices” that have become something of a must-have at community social events and children’s birthday parties. We have not yet mentioned the potential liability of property owners who have either rented a bounce house from a vendor or purchased a device for their personal use.
Today, the bounce house injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities throughout the country, will discuss the general rules of law that apply to all property owners and tenants. He will then examine the liability of property owners for injuries that may occur when a bounce house is present on their property. He will then close our discussion with a review of the legal options that may be available to those who have been injured in a bounce house accident.
Customer versus visitor versus trespasser
The law of property deals with what a property owner can, and cannot, do to with property to which he or she has the right of “lawful possession” or “lawful ownership.” Property law or, more specifically, the doctrine of “premises liability,” recognizes three general types of individuals who may be present on a property at any given time.
licensee (“customer”): A licensee is someone who is on the property with the owner’s consent and for the benefit of the owner, such as a customer in a store or a patron at a theme park. In general, a property owner owes the greatest responsibility for maintaining a safe property to a licensee.
invitee (“visitor”): A visitor is also on a property with the owner’s consent but the owner does not expect to gain or profit from the invitee’s presence. As examples, guests at a party and visitors at public social events are invitees. With few exceptions, the property owner has the same responsibility of care to an invitee that they would be expected to have for a licensee.
trespasser: Trespassers are those who are on a property without the owner’s consent. Trespassing is a crime in every state, and an owner owes no duty to a trespasser. A property owner may not, however, deliberately create a danger (such as a trap) that would cause an injury to a trespasser. There is one special case where a property owner owes a special responsibility to trespassers: an attractive nuisance.
An attractive nuisance is defined to be any object that a child, being naturally curious, might be expected to find interesting to visit or to explore (“attractive”) but, at the same time, that object poses a definite risk of serious injury or death to that child (“nuisance”). Thus, a landlord has the legal and moral responsibility to either 1) remove the attractive nuisance or 2) prevent children from visiting the nuisance unless given specific permission to do so.
As an example, when a bounce house is set up on public or private property, it can be expected to attract the attention of a child. If a child manages to find a way to enter the bounce house and suffers an injury, a court will usually find the property’s owner liable for the child’s injury and will order the property owner to pay such damages as the court may deem appropriate.
Who, if anyone, is liable for bounce house injuries?
If someone’s carelessness causes another to be injured in an accident, the person responsible can be sued and ordered by a court to compensate (pay) the accident victim for their injury. In the majority of such lawsuits, determining who was at fault in an accident is relatively easy. This is not always the case in a bounce house lawsuit because there are usually at least four potentially-negligent parties:
- the bounce house’s designer/manufacturer
- the company that sold or rented the bounce house
- the person responsible for setting up or assembling the bounce house
- the owner or legal occupant of the property where the accident occurred
Since the subject of this post is the potential liability of a property owner, the first three potential defendants will be discussed only briefly here. A more in-depth discussion of this topic can be found in resulting posts.
The bounce house’s designer/manufacturer
By nature of their intended use, bounce houses are constructed using lightweight but strong materials that must be carefully assembled into a defect-free final product. If the original design of a bounce house is defective, or if its manufacturing process induced a defect that was not recognized until after an accident, the manufacturer may be held liable for any resulting injuries.
The company that sold or rented the bounce house
When a company (vendor) sells, rents, or leases a bounce house to a customer, it also gives an implied warranty that the product is safe to use as intended. Should an accident occur, the courts will hold that such an implied warranty is sufficient to establish liability on the part of the vendor.
The person responsible for setting up or assembling the bounce house
In practically all cases this person will be an employee of the company that rented/leased the bounce house to the property owner. Since an employer can be held responsible for the actions of its employees, if it can be shown that an employee was negligent, the court will almost always hold that the employer was negligent as well through the doctrine of respondeat superior (“let the master answer”).
The owner or legal occupant of the property where the accident occurred
Regardless of circumstances, if an accident occurs on your property the courts will presume that you were careless/negligent under the doctrine of premises liability. In simple terms, this doctrine holds that:
- a rational individual does not expect to suffer an injury when going about their routine affairs
- another rational individual will not deliberately create a situation that could lead to an injury to another individual
- an individual has control of events on his or her own property
- if an injury occurs then, by #2, that injury was caused by the carelessness/negligence of another
- if that injury occurs on an individual’s property, then that individual was negligent by #’s 2, 3, and 4
- the property owner is therefore liable for damages
In the real world things are, of course, rarely this simple. However, regardless of the complexity of the case and its supporting facts, the legal reasoning always follows the logic presented above.
Contacting a bounce house injury lawyerAs you have seen, most bounce house injuries are caused by accidents that did not have to happen if someone had not been careless in the bounce house’s design, set-up, or operation. Under American civil law, the person or persons whose carelessness led to an injury can be ordered to pay compensation to the injured person. This payment is not, however, automatic but usually requires that a lawsuit be filed in order to force compensation to be paid.
If your child as injured in a bounce house accident, you should contact the bounce house injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm to arrange a free, no obligation, review of your child’s bounce house injury case. At our firm, your first consultation with us is exactly what we say it is: free, and does not mean that you must hire us to represent you in court! Should you decide that we should be your legal counsel, we are willing to assume full responsibility for preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.