The Ice Lawsuit Cometh (Potentially)

Hi ykrhryedin
Readers: It’s weird, isn’t it, how something as remote as litigation ends up changing REAL, daily life? But it does. This note is just a great example of what happens when we see everything in terms of a court case down the road. — Lenore
Dear Free-Range Kids: I live in the suburbs of DC — Frederick, MD to be exact, a lovely community that is rich in history. We have a fantastic “downtown” area that hosts lots of community and cultural arts events on a regular basis. Anyhooo, last Friday was their yearly “Fire & Ice” display. The streets are lined with many ice sculptures on display, the quaint stores are open late, free trolley rides etc. etc.


My kids are 8 & 10 years old. As we were browsing the streets this evening, we came upon a fenced in outdoor area that advertised itself as the “ice playground.” Cool. As the kids and I curiously went to step into the “playground,” we were abruptly halted by a lady with a clipboard. Since this fenced-in area was actually the patio dining area of a restaurant (closed during winter months, obviously), I thought this lady was taking names for the wait list to get seated inside. Wrong. She was having anyone who entered the area (even adults sans children), sign a full page release. I printed my name and then signed at the bottom. I then was asked to print the names of my children under my signature. The lady was most pleasant and I obliged accordingly, thinking to myself how ridiculous this is.

To make this even more absurd, the “ice playground” consisted of 3 things. Hold on tight here, they are a bit risky and dangerous:

1. A large ice sculpture (bear shaped) that was made into a chair. Anyone could line up to sit in the chair and have their picture taken, for free.

2. Another large ice sculpture, clown-shaped, with various holes in the ice. A large plastic bin sat in front of the clown with bean bags in it. Anyone could play to their heart’s content, trying to get a bean bag to go through one of the holes.

3. Lastly, another ice sculpture of a checkers-type game with plastic checker pieces on it. It was actually more of a mini shuffleboard, where one could slide the plastic checker pieces on the ice table.

That was it. The Ice Playground. No ice sliding, no balance beam, no diving board, high wire or frozen ball pit that I was assuming would have been at this high-risk “playground,” with mandatory release required.

I am so sorry that I did not get a copy of the form to email you. It was one for the books. Here is a link to the events for the evening though. Enjoy your winter! — A friend in Maryland

The fear of lawsuits is freezing the life out of us. Brrr. — L



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19 Responses to The Ice Lawsuit Cometh (Potentially)

  1. Vince L February 10, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    We had this at our ice display. No sign-up sheet anywhere to be found. The goof on the slide is even going backwards!

  2. EricS February 10, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    As sad as it is, until people can stop themselves from blaming others and filing a law suit, there will be others who will go to any lengths to protect themselves from these individuals. Unfortunately, this affects those that are more level headed, non-opportunistic people. You know the old saying, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the batch.

    Don’t blame the woman, blame the people that she’s protecting herself and her business from. But, she’s not helping herself by being a frowny stick in the mud. Maybe if she was a little more pleasant, she may get to know who the people are that aren’t the suing type. It’s a chain reaction that only leads to the breakdown in what a small community should be.

  3. Wayne February 10, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    this is a prank right? has to be. Years Ago, I accompanied my son’s grade 2 class to the winter festival in Ottawa, and there were tons of ice slides, and games, and skating, and inner tubes on the ice etc. there were no waivers or releases to sign, as well there were hundreds of people and kids using them, infact the only people that I know of who got hurt were the adults. Also, i was left in charge of my son and 2 of his classmates for the day, with a schedule of times to meet up, no background checks, no fear-mongering etc.

    If people are expected to sign releases to do anything in their communities for fear of lawsuits etc. then the communities are going to stop doing things, whatever happened to signs that say “use at own risk”

    a person getting hurt because they chose to do something is a bit of bad luck, really, but if you choose to sue someone else because you got hurt based on a choice you made, well, that just says (to me at least) that you lack the capability of taking responsibility for your own actions.

  4. thescreamingkettle February 10, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    So when we hook up sleds to the back of our four-wheel-drive and pull our friends through snowy fields at 30 mph and then have hot chocolate afterwards that’s probably frowned on by these types, right?

  5. Hege February 10, 2011 at 1:32 am #

    Too bad there are no laws that apply to emptying childhood of fun and physical challenges. Those would have been law suits to follow…

    A little bit off topic:
    This reminds me of when I took my daughters back to Oslo from Italy in the winters to toughen them up, and how astonished they were at seeing 2-4-year-olds climb up on icy snow banks, falling frequently, hitting their chin, getting up again with no adult intervention.
    I realized quickly I had become all soft from spending time in an a less challenging climate. It took me servaral days of self-constraint to get my 5 and 9-year-old to have the confidence and physical abilities little kids around the Holmenkollen ski jump had.

  6. maggie February 10, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    This whole conversation is making me so c-c-c-cold right now! 🙂 I think I’ll come back and read it in August!

  7. Jespren February 10, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    I had a horrible sledding accident one year while out sledding with our Awanas group. Really hurt my back. Had to be dropped off at my house on the way back from sledding, my pastor even came in and prayed for me to get well soon. My biggest concern? I missed the pizza and horseback riding the rest of the day entailed. My parents biggest concern? “Can you feel everything? Wiggle your toes? Ok, you’ll heal”. And I did. People have got to stop taking even the chance of childhood accidents so seriously. Kids are remarkably resilent!

  8. Nanci February 10, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Just about everywhere I take my kids I have to sign a waiver. The worst part is when I let them bring friends. I have to remember to print the waiver beforehand and give it to the parent to sign when I pick the kid up. We live in the St. Louis area and I am very happy to report that one local place (the one that is actually probably more dangerous than any of the others) has no waiver! The City Museum, a wonderful place where you can climb through a giant metal slinky 4 stories above the parking lot, and explore deep, very dark caves. I have hurt myself numerous times at this place, yet I LOVE it. No one tells you not to do anything, you can climb and jump till your hearts content. I love the attitude of the man who invented this city treasure. We, like all cities, have certain lawyers on TV commercials that have become household names. The creator of the City Museum hates lawyers. In the entrance to the City Museum he placed a dummy in old fashioned stocks and put one particular lawyers face on the dummy for all to see!

  9. Donna February 10, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Waiver aside, this sounds like the most boring Ice Playground ever.

  10. bmj2k February 10, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Worst ice playground ever.
    Thank you legal system!

  11. BobB February 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    You were lucky to ge out alive. Everyone knows clowns are evil!!!!!

  12. Jen February 10, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Vince- What a neat slide! Now, can I sue for having a frozen butt after using it? Ha Ha!

  13. VinceL February 11, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    @Nanci: Also in in the St Louis ara and I love City Museum – except when the teens take over on Fri and Sat night. It is ALWAYS one of the places we take visitors with kids.

  14. Hels February 11, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    My hometown turned the entire main square into an ice playground… skating rink, all kinds of slides, ice sculptures, snow sculptures, climbing things, and a full-sized ice palace ready for exploration to boot. Built to a different theme each year, and teeming with kids and adults having fun all day, every day until late night. In later years they had lights and music show to make it even better. That’s what I call an ice playground. And never a waiver or a lawyer. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone being injured there.

  15. Claudia Conway February 11, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I think I’d probably refuse to go in such a place on grounds of the insult to my intelligence. As if, if my child fell over and sustained and injury I’d go ‘Duh! But I didn’t realise ice was slippy!’

    I think there maybe ought to be certain set rules in law about:
    Ice is slippery
    People can drown in water
    Diving in water without knowing the depth or what’s under the surface is hazardous
    If you climb something, you can also fall off it
    If you look where you are going you can generally see what’s on the ground in front of you.

    And if anyone tries to sue because they’ve met misfortune connected with any of the above, they need to be told either that sh*t happens or they should have been more attentive and it’s not the fault of whoever owns the surface/lake/pool/climbable object etc.

  16. Orion February 11, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    At least they let people play there!

  17. Gail February 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Here’s a link to the Ottawa festival (Winterlude) mentioned above.

    It’s hard to see from the pics and video in there but the ice slides are so big it takes as long to climb up the ramps as it does to slide down. Word of advice to the parents if you ever go there: wear snow pants. I learned this the hard way the first year I went. Jeans don’t slide for long and you really don’t want to get stuck partway down an ice slide.

  18. Anne February 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Sadly, this is my hometown. When I was growing up there, it was much more of a rural mentality. In other words, if you got hurt doing something, you didn’t do it again. You didn’t sue the owner of the ground you walked on. It’s sad that shop owners feel the need to now CYA for ice sculptures. 🙁


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