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ARTICLE ID 139013

Alleged defective design of children's' playground equipment - Plaintiff contends climbing apparatus should have contained platform and other safety features - Plaintiff also contends that slip resistant powder coating should be have been applied - 13-year-old child plaintiff moving quickly across rungs and slips and suffers fracture when leg becomes entangled in rung

Camden County, New Jersey

This product liability action involved a piece of playground climbing equipment designed and manufactured by the defendant. The equipment was M shaped, contained a series of rungs which were slightly less than 12 inches apart and was longer than it was high, standing a relatively short distance above the ground. Children would climb across the rungs.

The plaintiff contended that the equipment should have contained additional safety features, including a small platform and rails to reduce the hazards attendant to the equipment. The plaintiff pointed to national statistics on playground injuries, and maintained that such safeguards should have been provided.

The plaintiff also maintained that the defendant should have applied a rubberized powder-type material that would enhance the slip-resistant quality of the equipment.

The evidence reflected that as the child plaintiff was climbing quickly across the device, he slipped, his leg became entangled in a rung and that the plaintiff maintained that he sustained a severe leg fracture.

The defendant maintained that the equipment as designed and manufactured was safe and complied with Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines. The defendant contended that the history of the product showed that it was safe.

The defendant also maintained that the inclusion of the additional features advanced by the plaintiff would detract from the climbing challenges that were designed to be provided by the equipment and would essentially entail changing the purpose of the equipment.

The defendant also maintained that in this public playground situation, the application of the additional slip resistant material discussed by the plaintiff would not be effective because it would wear out very quickly, rendering it difficult for public entities to afford to properly maintain the product.

The defendant also maintained that the jury should consider that the equipment is designed to be used by children who are approximately 5 years of age, and that the accident occurred when the 13-year-old child plaintiff was attempting to climb across as quickly as possible as part of a race.

The jury found that the product was not defective.

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