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Plaintiff hanging off of horizontal bar on school playground when she slips and falls, twisting her ankle - Fracture requires closed reduction - Plaintiff argues that ground cover on playground was insufficient.

Suffolk County, New York

The minor female plaintiff was hanging from a horizontal bar located on the defendant’s playground about a foot off the ground when she fell from the bar and twisted her ankle. The plaintiff maintained that she suffered a fractured ankle requiring a closed reduction. The plaintiff contended that the lack of supervision and insufficiency of ground cover on the playground resulted in her injury. The lack of supervision argument was defeated on summary judgment and the case was tried solely on the insufficiency of ground cover.

The plaintiff’s safety expert testified that the standards promulgated in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Handbook require that 12 inches of pea gravel be present. The expert opined that if this ground cover had been in place, it may well have prevented the plaintiff’s injury. The expert further testified that increasing the pea gravel by two to four inches would definitely have minimized the severity of the injury.

The defendant’s expert biomechanical engineer argued that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety only has to do with head injuries and there are no studies that support whether a particular depth of ground cover would have prevented an ankle injury. He testified that no scientific data exists to show at what depth of pea gravel an injury such as the plaintiff’s would be prevented. Neither expert witness visited the scene of the accident.

The defense also conducted an analysis of the physical force on the body mass of a person of the plaintiff’s weight (approximately 70 pounds). They concluded that 70 pounds of weight on one foot would cause a fracture regardless of the ground cover. The defendant argued that since the infant plaintiff fell on her ankle, this was the proximate cause of her injury.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and half before deciding that the plaintiff did not meet the burden to prove that by increasing the ground cover, the injury would have been prevented. They rejected the idea that there was a dangerous condition at the playground. A verdict in favor of the defendant was then entered.

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