Protecting Against Liability for Playground Accidents

December 20, 2012
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Q: There are a lot of children in the community I manage who frequently use our playground. Most are with a parent or babysitter, but some of the older kids stay by themselves without supervision. Is my association required by law to make sure children are supervised in our playground?

A: No. Associations generally are not required by law to supervise children in the playground. However, many community association attorneys advise associations to require parents or other guardians to watch their kids and make sure the rules are followed. (Keep in mind that your association is still responsible for the basic safety of playground equipment!)

Your association playground rule could be worded: “For safety reasons, all children must be accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian. The parent or guardian is responsible for supervision and for the children’s safety and compliance with these rules.” Requiring supervision can help prevent an accident, and it can help the association avoid liability if one does occur.

Some associations set a certain age limit below which children require supervision. For example, an association could require supervision for children under 5. The age will vary according to the specific playground equipment the association has and the location of the playground. For instance, if your playground has high slides or is near a busy road, your association wouldn’t want any children under 13 playing unsupervised. But if your association has only basic playground equipment and its playground is in a safe location—for example, in the middle of the community, away from busy roads—it could decide to set the cutoff age for supervision at younger than 13. To find the best cutoff age, talk to your association’s attorney and its insurance carrier.

Finally, the rules should make it clear that the supervision requirement is for “safety reasons,” and not to discriminate against children. As long as the rules are reasonable and clearly intended to protect the safety of children, the association won’t be discriminating against children under federal fair housing law. It’s also good to get independent input in setting the rules, so that if the association is ever sued, the rules won’t seem to have been set arbitrarily.