I often find that I am writing on this blog about recent court cases involving condominium associations and their property insurance claims with insurers. For this week’s post, I began thinking of another side of potential insurance disputes that associations are faced with. These involve liability issues. Risk management is a big concern for associations and their representatives. Similarly for me, as a new parent, potential dangers are suddenly more visible all around. Many condominium and homeowner associations have playgrounds in their common areas. Playgrounds are nice community amenities, but they can pose certain risks. The ironic thing is that such leisure amenities are often the things that pose increased risks. If injuries occur, the association and its insurer could get sued.
However, associations can minimize the risk of accidents occurring. Creating playground rules and making parents aware of them are very important to associations’ risk management.
The Community Association Management Insider has a website devoted to topics of interest for associations. An article on the site by James Bownas, Esq. and William Granahan, Set Playground Rules to Minimize Risk of Injuries and Lawsuits, covers what playground rules should cover from a risk management perspective.
The article discusses the following to be addressed in the rules:
Require adult supervision. As a manager, you are generally not required by law to supervise children on your community’s playground. . . . But you should require parents or other adult guardians to watch kids and make sure the rules are followed.. . . . Some associations set a certain age below which children require supervision.
Warn that those using playground do so at their own risk. Your rules should warn members that they are responsible for their activities on the playground and that the association is not responsible for injuries or accidents. . .
Set hours. It is a good idea to set reasonable hours for playground use based on when it gets dark in your area. . . . If the playground has a fence and gate, you can lock the gate during off-hours and when it is raining or snowing.
Limit use to members and guests. You should limit the use of the playground to members and accompanied guests. . .
Ban older and bigger kids. Set a maximum age or height of the children you allow to use the playground—depending on the type of equipment and the manufacturers’ instructions. . . . Equipment is usually tailored to a particular age or height.
Ban improper use of equipment. Make it clear to members that they must ensure that their kids use the playground equipment properly. . . . [Y]our rules should ban some common abuses such as:
Standing, kneeling, or riding double on swings;
Walking up or down the slide; and
Climbing on top of the swing sets.
Ban in-line skates, skateboards, bicycles, and tricycles. One common dangerous misuse this rule prevents is children using skates or skateboards on the slide, which could cause injury.
Ban pets and food and drinks.
Taking recommended precautions can help to minimize risk while still preserving the residents’ ability to enjoy such an amenity. Association representatives and managers are urged to speak with their association’s attorney and insurer about adapting these rules to fit their community’s needs.