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Two toddlers were hospitalized with severe injuries after a bounce house they crawled into was thrown into the air by wind.
The injured children entered the bounce house at New Hampshire's Sullivan Farm, "a popular spot for apple and pumpkin picking," reports The Boston Globe. The New Hampshire Bureau of Tramway and Amusement Ride Safety commented that because the bounce house was "not open to the public at the time," the case is out of their hands.
Who, if anyone, could be held liable for the toddlers' injuries?
Property owners generally have legal responsibility for children who are injured because of dangerous conditions on their property -- especially if those children are customers or invited guests. It seems likely that the children who were injured when the bounce house was blown aloft were there with potential customers of the farm, entitling them to a strict duty of care by Sullivan Farm.
But in this case, the bounce house was apparently closed. Entering forbidden areas on private property may be considered trespassing, which may release the farm from much of its responsibility for the accident.
On the other hand, the law recognizes that real caution must be taken to keep an attractive nuisance from harming child trespassers. And what could be more attractive to a toddler than an empty bounce house?
According to the Globe, Briggs Lockwood, chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Tramway and Amusement Ride Safety, said the bounce house was only inflated to keep it dry and there were bales of hay blocking the front of it, signaling its closure. But two farm visitors, Ron and Leah Perry, disagreed, telling Manchester's WMUR-TV that there were "[n]o bales of hay" and that the bounce house "wasn't blocked off in any shape or form."
If a lawsuit is filed, and if a court determines that Sullivan Farm was negligent in failing to rope off or supervise the errant bounce house, then the children's injuries may be on Sullivan Farm's tab. This is especially likely if the Perrys were correct that staff members were "walking by" the bounce house and were "totally fine" with "a little boy already bouncing in the house."
This isn't the first inflatable bounce house to take flight with children inside it. In May, three children were injured when a gust of wind carried a bounce house more than 50 feet into the air. It's certainly possible for the amusements to be used safely, but at the moment, bounce houses seem about as safe for kids as trampolines.
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