Recognizing the chilling effect a successful lawsuit against a school could have, a judge in Dublin denied payment to a family whose child had fallen and broken her arm during a Â schoolyard game of chase.
â€œI just cannot accept the proposition that they should,â€ he told barrister Adrianne Fields who successfully defended a â‚¬38,000 damages claim taken against a school on behalf of a six-year-old pupil.
Veronika Trjasunova, now aged 13, sued through her mother, Natalija Saveljeva, Guardian Angels National School, Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
She had sued the school on the basis that its staff had been negligent in having failed to stop a game of chase, in which Veronika was engaged during a lunch break in the hard surfaced school yard in April 2010.
Sadly, Veronika fell, breaking her arm, and other kids fell on top of her. If I was Veronika, or a member of her family, I’d be dismayed. But would I truly believe that the game should have been stopped? That all running games should be stopped, just in case? That it was sheer employee negligence that allowed kids to run around?
That’s pretty much what her side said. But —
â€œShe was engaged in a game of chase pure and simple and, while it is most regrettable that she became unbalanced and fell, this was simply an old fashioned accident and I fail to see any liability on the part of the school for that accident,â€ Judge Groarke said.
Score one for those of us who understand that there is NO activity, even climbing out of bed, that is always 100% safe. So if we start outlawing activities that are generally, but not 100% completely safe, we will end up outlawing any movement whatsoever.
The judge also seems to realize that something is LOST even if a modicum of safety could be gained. Are kids really safer if they do NOT run around, use their bodies, burn calories, learn to play, deal with disappointment, organize their friends, and create something out of nothing — a game?
Nope. Kids need to play. It’s what they are programmed to do, by nature. Taking it away because a girl hurt her arm is like taking away food because someone somewhere choked.
Kudos to Judge Groarke. And, while we’re at it, what a cool name. – L.
Thank goodness for this reasonable judge.
And shame on attorneys who will find an upset family, whip them up into a frenzy, and convince them that an injury always means someone did something wrong.
Thank goodness for small victories.
I broke my wrist on a playground at about the age of 10. Yes, chasing (and tripping and falling).
My parents didn’t sue anybody.
(Gee, let me check the statute of limitations …)
I broke my wrist on the playground, had innumerable skinned knees, gave myself a nice shiner from playing Red Rover–(ran into a fence while breaking through)–and fell off the see-saw because my best friend and I were using it to play bucking bronco–I landed flat on my face on the ground. Never once would it have occurred to my parents to file a lawsuit because of them. Childhood injuries are part of growing up.
Oh for pete’s sake. My son was kicked while playing and broke his finger, just three years ago. We went to the ER and he had pins put in, etc. Only reason I could see suing was if the family didn’t have medical insurance.
I was worried I’d be sued a couple years ago. My kid and another kid were both running on the playground, not even playing together, when they collided. My kid’s teeth front teeth and that kid’s forehead. The teeth became quite loose, so you can imagine how the forehead fared. Thankfully everyone treated it like the random accident that it was.
Last year my kids were on a soccer team, and a mom informed me that my daughter had accidentally kicked the soccer ball into her kid’s face and broke her glasses. The coach was right there, nothing was said at the time, so I do believe it was a pure accident (not like my kid had a habit of kicking balls in people’s faces; she’s been the recipient of same, as I think most soccer kids are at some time or other). The mom said “I’m telling you this in case you want to talk to your daughter about it.” I thought about it … what would I say to my daughter? Don’t kick the ball when another kid is in the vicinity? I did ask my kid how it went down, decided it was nobody’s fault, and moved on.
I mean, I feel for the family that has to spend money on playground or sports injuries. I would love to be able to pay for everyone’s injuries, but I can’t, and that’s not how it works. It could have been her kid kicking the ball in my kid’s face, and I would have just dealt with it. If I don’t want my kid getting hit with a soccer ball, I don’t sign her up for soccer.
Several years ago, my daughter’s best friend was playing tag at recess when she tripped and fell. An older boy who was chasing her stepped on her back while she was on the ground. She went to the nurse in extreme pain and her parents had to take her to the doctor because of her injured back. This girl went through numerous tests, including an MRI, to pin point the source of her back pain. What they found was a mass in her lungs the size of a softball!
She had surgery and was treated by oncologists who luckily caught this fast-growing tumor early. Imagine if she wasn’t playing tag and didn’t have this accident. She might not be here today.
And my kid has been the recipient of many sports / playground injuries. It’s part of being an active kid. I just feel sorry for the teachers and staff who have to deal with these incidents. Between accidents and teeth falling out and sick kids puking etc., it sounds like a gory job. 😛
Ha! Had this happened in the good’ole US of A, I’m afraid the lawsuit probably would have been successful.
Once upon a time, having a cast because you played too hard was considered cool. As someone who had several over the years from bike accidents, falls from trees and an unfortunate encounter with a freshly waxed piano bench (Don’t run to practice, kids.), these were things that we took in stride and accepted as inevitable.
I’ve written in other places that the infrequency with which one sees kids in casts these days is an indication of how limited active play has become. Now, no one wishes an accident on any child or any pain, but as Lenore points out, no activity is without risk.
And kids can do the youthful equivalent of “dining out” on the story. “Yeah, when the doctor put my bones together, I could hear them click. It was really neat.”
My parents were much more likely to roll their eyes at our antics than sue. Bruises, broken bones, cuts and scrapes were the byproduct of four active and highly creative boys. Moreover, the fault was always with ourselves. Inevitably, we were the ones told to be more careful in the future.
When my six-year-old son broke his arm while at a skating rink with his day care, all his mom and I expected was for his medical expenses to be covered by the day care’s insurance. We figured it was a routine accident, not malice or incompetence. While they never expressed it directly, we could tell the proprietors were extremely grateful to have not been sued, given that they let us off the hook the few times when we could have been charged exorbitant amounts for being late in pick-up (that blame goes to my boss at the time).
Why is everyone named in this story except the biggest villains – the lawyers who brought this suit against the school?
My wife and I have shocked daycares (multiple ones) because we accept certain injuries as inevitable parts of childhood. Our toddler gets a black eye because he fell into a stool? It sucks, sure–but the fact that he didn’t even slow down sort of indicates how minor the injury is!
Honestly, though, I don’t think the injury is important to the type of person who sues a school for their kid getting hurt playing tag. It’s all about the money. Schools have deeper pockets than individuals, and when you add up the medical costs, the punitive damages, and the “pain and suffering”/mental anguish amounts, it can put a family in a pretty good financial situation. At the expense of the school and the education of the students who attend, sure–but people don’t think about that. When people see broken bones, they see dollar signs.
I remember in school the teachers decided that the only activity safe enough for us to play was kickball (yeah, try to figure THAT logic out!). We weren’t allowed to play basketball, soccer, flag football, we weren’t even allowed to opt out of playing kickball–every recess for years we played the same game, with the same people. It turned recess into one of the most dreaded parts of the day, even for those who enjoyed the game. For the rest of us, it was pure torture.
“When my six-year-old son broke his arm while at a skating rink with his day care, all his mom and I expected was for his medical expenses to be covered by the day careâ€™s insurance.”
Really? Was there some sort of negligence or misconduct involved? If he were skating at a birthday party would you expect the birthday boy’s parents to cover your medical expenses? Would you cover another child’s?
Maybe this is just me, but like Lenore is saying, I think accidents are a part of childhood, which is why we carry insurance (and why we’re now required to). If my child is injured, whether at home, at school, at a friend’s house, whatever, unless gross negligence is involved, I’ll pay my own medical expenses for my own child. You do the same, please. After all, medical insurance is not like car insurance – it doesn’t go up just because you use it.
“”â€œWhen my six-year-old son broke his arm while at a skating rink with his day care, all his mom and I expected was for his medical expenses to be covered by the day careâ€™s insurance.â€
Really? Was there some sort of negligence or misconduct involved? If he were skating at a birthday party would you expect the birthday boyâ€™s parents to cover your medical expenses? Would you cover another childâ€™s?””
Call me a cheapskate, but I believe that if I can reasonably expect insurance to cover something without much drama, why not? Daycares are required to have insurance. Why? For things like this.
Generally, skating rinks and the like have waivers you sign ahead of time (because, good grief, that’s our world) to avoid them using insurance.
Many home insurances cover accidents on the home, if something were to happen at a home birthday.
I don’t know if I’m praising the Insurance Gods, but at the same time, insurance can be pretty darn useful.
Doesn’t Ireland have universal health coverage? I am wondering why the family had to pay out of pocket for the girl’s medical expenses. Although I also don’t think people should be able to sue over a game of tag, I feel bad for the family if they had to pay â‚¬38,000 out of pocket.
“Doesnâ€™t Ireland have universal health coverage? I am wondering why the family had to pay out of pocket for the girlâ€™s medical expenses.”
The names don’t sound very Irish (Slavic rather), so these very well may be immigrants who don’t qualify for Irish medical coverage the minute they arrive.
Dienne, don’t “Really?” me.
Part of this day care’s draw was about how better-than-code, fully-insured, and “more responsible” they were than other day care endeavors, so I saw no need to shell out when we were paying good money for what they were offering as part of the package. We simply expected them to fill the bill as advertised.
I’m on the fence about the insurance thing. In the case described in the comments, yeah, the daycare pays it–if you advertise about it you’re obliged, morally if not legally (not sure about it, I’m not a lawyer), to do it. It’s never wrong to expect someone to live up to standards they themselves set.
In general, though, I’d be willing to use my own insurance. Accidents happen, after all, and there’s no sense in punishing someone who wasn’t actually involved. My wife and I went out of our way to get extremely good insurance because we know that, given my family history (and my own medical records), hospital visits are inevitable. if my kid busts his knee open or breaks an arm doing normal activities, including skating, my insurance pays for it.
“NO activity, even climbing out of bed, is always 100% safe.”
Even SLEEPING in bed is not 100% safe. A coworker’s preschooler dislocated her shoulder by rolling out of bed while sleeping.
We were on a Disney Cruise to Alaska. My 12 y.o. son was off with the Tween Club doing a scavenger hunt around the ship. They were told not to run, but kids being kids, they did. My son slipped and fell on the marble floor outside one of the restaurants and broke his wrist. Fortunately medical services on the ship was able to fix it (an x-ray and a wrist brace) and we continued to enjoy our vacation. We were contacted by multiple people while on the ship to see what they could do to help us and got a follow up call several weeks after we returned home. In all those contacts I always got the sense they were waiting for me to announce I was suing and were surprised when I said “Oh well, accidents happen.”
When I was FOUR I was playing hockey in our basement with my uncle. He smashed me into the wall, breaking my wrist.
Not only did I (or my parents) NOT sue him, he did not even get a boarding penalty, which was complete and utter bull!@#$
@James Not everyone has insurance and insurance often does not pay whole bill. Broken hand can be very expensive for many people.
“@James Not everyone has insurance and insurance often does not pay whole bill. Broken hand can be very expensive for many people.”
I am aware of both of those facts, from personal experience. However, your financial status does not grant you the right to demand a third party pay for your medical treatment. I get why it would make some people think they need to do so, but it still doesn’t make it morally defensible, and it doesn’t remove the negative consequences of their actions from society. The only possible argument is that it’s akin to stealing bread when you’re starving, but at this point we’re stealing so much bread that the bakery is going out of business.
“In all those contacts I always got the sense they were waiting for me to announce I was suing and were surprised when I said â€œOh well, accidents happen.â€”
Okay, I wasn’t a kid at the time–I was a senior in college–but I had a similar experience. I got broken during a Medieval re-enactment, because a guy fell on me wrong (yes, there IS a right way to fall on people, it’s just hard to do when 50 other people are fighting literally on top of you). The second question the medic on-site asked was whether I was going to press charges. I was floored–I honestly thought he was joking! I mean, my team had spent all morning bashing that unit to pieces, and when the event in question happened *I* had charged *HIM*. I pointed out that I had assumed the risk (which got some looks from the lawyers in the group), and informed him that in my opinion any judge who didn’t immediately throw out such a case was unfit for the bench. I will never forget the look of relief on his face when I said that.
Both Little Brother and I have got hurt during school hours, but I very much doubt the school was involved in paying those bills. This is what health insurance is for. Pay the fee and don’t ruin everyone else’s fun by suing over nonsense stuff.
Bet these parents didn’t think to sue the kid that elbowed their daughter in the head:
The “kids will act like kids” argument is why facilities that are designed for kids have to be designed to provide for safety of the kids.
They don’t have to be designed for 100% safety, but if there is something that can be done to make it safer, they’d either better have done it, be able to show that they’re working on doing it, or have a really good explanation for why they aren’t doing it.
Consider a slightly different context: workplace safety. You’d think that adults who are theoretically able to reason in their best interests would avoid workplace injuries and deaths because they don’t want to be injured or dead. Employers would want to avoid workplace injuries and deaths because they’re disruptive to production and therefore expensive. But… the costs of being safe might be higher than the cost of the occasional maimed worker. Safety has to be engineered in… you need safety equipment which costs money in itself but also creates training costs and may require production facilities to be rebuilt or expensive machinery to be replaced. So government puts its thumb on the scale and says “we’re going to make workplace injuries that were preventable VERY EXPENSIVE” to tip the balance towards workplace safety.
You see the same thing in playground design… although there’s no replacement for the court system for injured children as there is with workmen’s comp… The goal is to reduce injuries by making playgrounds include safety provisions that can help reduce injuries.
But all you have to do is go on youtube, and search “playground fails”, to see a whole lot of playground equipment used in ways the designers never intended.
I’m beginning to think I don’t understand enough about how insurance works. I was under the impression that if you broke a wrist and tried to get your insurance to pay for it, they would most likely ask you questions about how and where it happened in an attempt to assign liability to another party so that the other party would need to pay for it, rather than your own insurance. Can you just choose to have your insurance pay for your care without going after the school/homeowner/daycare/skating rink on whose premises you were or in whose care your child was when the accident happened?
Here’s to the kids who use the playground equipment in ways that were never intended.
And here’s to their parents who recognize this as a good thing and accept that kids get hurt.
Congratulations Lenore! This is further proof that you’re making a difference.
@K – Your insurance may well try to shift liability elsewhere if it’s worth their while and if there’s clearly third party liability or negligence, like an auto accident or workplace injury. Your kid being injured when the monkey bars suddenly collapse is one thing. Your kid tripping over her own feet while running during recess is another.
Children learn more than ABC’s. They learn more than the ‘A’ sound is the same sound in the word ‘apple’. They also learn that if an accident occurs we MUST blame someone else. This runs counter because we’re also trying to teach children to be responsible.
Kids don’t always listen to their parents. However, they never fail to mimic them. (an accident happened. It must be someone else’s fault)
And the fear of losing a case like this may be why so much activity is limited or prohibited.
“And hereâ€™s to their parents who recognize this as a good thing and accept that kids get hurt.”
And to the playground designers, who keep it from being so much worse that it would be if the playground weren’t designed to minimize the consequences of their choices. And to the lawyers and legislators who made it so.
In the world of radiation exposure there’s something called ALARA.
What is the ALARA Principle?
ALARA is an acronym used in radiation safety for â€œAs Low As Reasonably Achievable.â€ The ALARA radiation safety principle is based on the minimization of radiation doses and limiting the release of radioactive materials into the environment by employing all â€œreasonable methods.â€
It’s interesting to note that the principle here isn’t “as low as possible.” Because that’s zero. But if you want to get the benefits of using some radioactive materials (the benefits are many and huge, but I won’t go into that now) then you have to accept some exposure. And this is for something as scary as radiation.
So in the world of kids growing up, any notion that we should make things as safe as possible is just stupid. We could decide to never let kids run around, and to cover them in bubble wrap. But the things we’d give up are many and huge. Not just the fun, but the social growth, the psychological growth, the intellectual growth that come with play time. We shouldn’t make the world as safe as possible. We should make is as safe as reasonably achievable. (Yeah, reasonable people can disagree about where we should draw the limits. But no reasonable person will try to stop kids from running around.)
And the folks who deal with radiation understand this very clearly. Everybody else should too.
We could put forth an effort to outlaw movement, but then schools would have to invest in hospital beds with massage units. Without this, they would likely develop blood clots and bed sores. Can you imagine the lawsuits from that one? ‘Six year old dies from blood clot after recess was deemed too dangerous!’
So glad the judge is a person with intelligence and common sense. Shame on the family and the attorneys who started this farce. Kids will be kids. Good lord!
As long as there is money dangling–large pots of money in many cases–there will be litigants and lawyers ready to grab for it. And juries are inherently unpredictable, but will often side with the tearful Mom over the large faceless corporation no matter what the fact pattern. So the only way to stop this kind of lawsuit is to somehow change the legal structure so it doesn’t look like such easy money. I don’t know enough about the law to know what that should look like, but I do know that until something changes, this kind of lawsuits will continue–and more and more restrictions will be placed on both adults and children to prevent them.
‘And to the lawyers and legislators who made it so.’
Your idiotic posts disguised by an above average vocabulary are legendary here, JP. You’re going to have a tough time topping this one.
The comments are so american. In Europe there is universal care. For everyone. It’s far from perfect, but exists. In my country (Portugal) you might have to pay 20â‚¬ for an emergency room visit, but this wouldn’t be the case, since it’s a child (children don’t pay, pregnant women don’t pay, etc). Even if you are an immigrant! I donÂ´t know all the specifics of the Irish healthcare public system but I can pretty much guarantee that, unless the parents decided to go to a private care facility, the bill wouldn’t be 38,000â‚¬. I am laughing just at the ideia of paying that amount for an arm cast and an x-ray.
Obviously I don’t know the details, but the information here merely says that the legal claim was for 38,000. It doesn’t say that medical bills totaled that amount. The legal claim can include lost wages (for the parents), pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc.
â€œDoesnâ€™t Ireland have universal health coverage? I am wondering why the family had to pay out of pocket for the girlâ€™s medical expenses.â€
It is 38,000 Euros in damages. Damages is not necessarily medical expenses. It could also be pain and suffering, lost wages for the parents who had to miss work for doctors appointments, and anything else that the family was out of pocket for due to the injury.
Also, Ireland has a two-tiered healthcare system. There is universal health care which services you in state-run facilities. There is also insurance and private doctors and hospitals. It is possible that they didn’t have a medical card for some reason or they could have gone to a private facility and are out of pocket those expenses. Ireland is notorious for having extremely long wait lists to see consultants, like orthopedic doctors, as well has wait times in ERs in state hospitals, so it is very possible that they chose the private route and either did not have health insurance or the health insurance wants their money back as part of the deal.
When I was in first grade, a fourth grader knocked me down and dragged my face along the asphalt. They sent me back to class, but I was crying and my face was scraped raw, so they finally called my mom. My folks didn’t sue, but what I do remember is my 8 months pregnant mother ripping the Catholic school dragon lady school secretary a new one for not calling her sooner. I mean, NO ONE crossed the school secretary – not the principal, not the nuns, NO ONE. And there was my mom, making this woman shrink in her chair. That solved the problem – that kid never came near me again. Go mom!
“I think accidents are a part of childhood, which is why we carry insurance (and why weâ€™re now required to). If my child is injured, whether at home, at school, at a friendâ€™s house, whatever, unless gross negligence is involved, Iâ€™ll pay my own medical expenses for my own child. You do the same, please. After all, medical insurance is not like car insurance â€“ it doesnâ€™t go up just because you use it.”
Actually, insurance has become very complicated. Which insurance is responsible for which injury depends on the facts of those injuries. For example, your home owner’s insurance is responsible for many injuries that occur on your property. If you are having a BBQ and someone is not paying attention to where she is walking, trips over a root crossing your yard and breaks her wrist, your home owner’s insurance is the ultimate responsible party, not her health insurance. Her health insurance will pay in the short term, but she will also get a letter asking for the details of the injury. If she does not fill the letter out, she gets more letters and ultimately a letter threatening to cancel her health insurance if she doesn’t answer the questions (received those series of letters when I broke my ankle). The health insurance will then seek to reclaim their money from the home owners insurance. If it cannot do so through a normal claim, it may eventually sue the homeowner’s insurance. That lawsuit is generally done in the name of the parties, not the name of the insurance claims. So it would be Sue Smith vs. the Does, not Blue Cross v. State Farm. So it appears as if Sue Smith is seeking something from the Does when it is really just an insurance dispute.
“Itâ€™s interesting to note that the principle here isnâ€™t â€œas low as possible.â€ Because thatâ€™s zero.”
To be pedantic, not really–humans give off radiation. C14, potassium isotopes, and others. Granite countertops do, too–certain isotopes are stored in certain crystals, which emit radiation (it’s the basis for radiometric dating). Then there’s the “banana dose” and the like–the food we eat emits radiation!
But that only serves to further illustrate your point: perfect safety (or absolutely no exposure to radiation) is an insane goal, one that’s only conceivable by someone with no experience with the system in question. The real world isn’t nice and clean.
The problem I have with “reasonable measures” is that the definition of “reasonable” is slippery. I think it’s reasonable to inspect the playground equipment annually (or on some schedule) and make sure it’s not at risk of structural failure; after that, let the kids play. Others believe that it’s reasonable for the parents to constantly be by the children and to prevent them from doing anything remotely dangerous. The very existence of this blog demonstrates the split in what’s considered “reasonable”. Which means that any court case that hinges on this principle is going to depend on the whims of the judge–something I consider very dangerous.
(As a completely unrelated aside, while many people are unaware of it coal power plants emit more radiation than nuclear power plants. Coal contains radioactive isotopes, but the emissions are essentially unregulated, mostly because we didn’t know they existed until after so many were built that we couldn’t revamp them all. Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, are VERY tightly regulated with regards to radioactive emissions. I don’t recall any studies suggesting that radioactive emissions from coal power plants are harmful [the effect is overwhelmed by other issues with coal], but it’s a curious piece of information.)
Tag is prohibited at my daughter’s elementary school 🙁 She told me it was a school district wide rule though I can’t confirm that. Ridiculous.
For the person who said that klds aren’t wearing casts and must not be physical things any more.
Spring break was last week. My son, helping his father with some farm equipment, ended up breaking his toe when a large heavy piece fell on him. Revised all of our plans while we waited for doctor to see him to see if he needed surgery. (He doesn’t.) Steel toe shoes will be ordered.
Yesterday when he got done with his classes, he told me that 3 other kids had broken bones, and one was wearing an eye patch. Sounds like they were all doing kid things, bikes, hammock (spin the kid all the way around) and just some general misfortune. The eye patch was due to allergies.
These middle school kids primarily homeschool. And the parents tend to be pretty free range. Maybe not examples of the general population.
Good for the courts! And this is a prime example of why we hear of stupid rules and regulations in schools, facilities and parks. Not safety for kids. But safety for the adults to avoid frivolous lawsuits. Stop the cycle for our children’s sake. I hope the defendant makes her pay for their legal fees. Serves her right.
@James: “The second question the medic on-site asked was whether I was going to press charges. I was flooredâ€“I honestly thought he was joking! I mean, my team had spent all morning bashing that unit to pieces, and when the event in question happened *I* had charged *HIM*. I pointed out that I had assumed the risk (which got some looks from the lawyers in the group), and informed him that in my opinion any judge who didnâ€™t immediately throw out such a case was unfit for the bench. I will never forget the look of relief on his face when I said that.”
@CrazyCatLady: Maybe not the general population now. But certainly sounds like childhood when I was growing up. And no one was suing anyone back then. Unless it was gross negligence.
My daughter has broken bones at school twice – kindergarten and second grade – and at two different schools; two different districts even; to boot! I should look into this, see how well I can make out.
In all seriousness, this boggles the mind. I know only one person who has ever sued a school over an injury, and she didn’t sue over the injury itself, but over the response to it. Every teacher her daughter complained to brushed her off, essentially forcing her to suffer hours at school with a broken collar bone (discovered when her mother took her to the ER after school). Without evidence of intent or neglect, I can’t imagine even considering such steps.