Are parents liable for a playground accident at school?

by Lisa

I received a call from the principal of the school where our 11 year old goes. He said our son and a girl were running after a ball at recess and our son knocked here down. He said he reviewed the situation with teachers and it wasn't intentional. He also said our son is always very quiet and they never have any problems from him.

They kept him inside from recess for a couple days, to show the parents of the girl they took some action. The principal did tell me the little girl broke her collar bone. I now have the parents calling for me to pay medical bills.

I don't believe we are liable since it was an accident. They were both running after the ball and our son caught his foot in his pants leg and tripped into the girl. We live in Ohio. I'm sorry the little girl got hurt but they were both running to get to the ball first. Are we liable? Can they sue us? Do we have anything to worry about?

Thank you for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Are parents liable for a playground accident at school?":

Lisa (Ohio):

From the facts you present, you should not be liable for the girl’s unfortunate injury. You are correct. It is generally understood recess includes running, jumping, and playing games. In that regard, it is always possible children can be injured. It happens all the time.

Unless your son had a history of violence, and the school took no action to keep him away from other children during recess, you should not be liable.

While it is true parents of minor children may be held liable for injuries and/or property damage caused by their children, to be liable there must be some apparent negligence. In this case there doesn't seem to be any negligence involved.

You can contact the girl's parents. Explain your son had no history of violence, and the injury was entirely accidental. As a result, tell them you are not legally liable. If they accept and understand your premise, then the matter should fade away.

In the alternative, if they consider legal action, it is quite unlikely any attorney would accept the case. That's true for the reasons above.

If the parents still don’t get it, they can always file a small claims lawsuit. Once again, if they do, it is very unlikely they will prevail. Their daughter's injury was an accident on the school grounds. From the facts you present, there is no apparent liability, and as a result you owe them nothing.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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