PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY LOST: No More Snow Day Fun: More Cities Ban Sledding Over Liability Concerns
1/5/2015 by Tara West
Gone are the days of waking up to a snow day and heading to a local sledding spot for a day of fun. Increasing numbers of cities are banning sledding on city property due to liability concerns and demands from insurance providers.
According to SF Gate, cities are concerned over the potential for lawsuits over sledding injuries. Therefore, many cities are opting to close hills rather than risk large liability claims from injured sledders. The latest city to ban sledding within public parks is Dubuque, Iowa. The city has decided to move forward with a plan that would ban sledding in 48 of its 50 city parks. Marie Ware, Dubuque’s leisure services manager, told SF Gate that the city can’t manage “the risk at all those places.”
The city council didn’t take the move lightly. In fact, council members didn’t want it to have to come to this, but told the NY Times it was “the only responsible choice given liability concerns and demands from the city’s insurance carrier.” The sledding ban comes following a number of large settlements regarding sledding accidents across the country. Their insurance carrier was particularly adamant about the ban pointing to numerous sledding lawsuits in the past decade. One such case was a $2 million judgment against Omaha, Nebraska, after a 5-year-old girl was paralyzed when she hit a tree. Yet another large settlement happened in Sioux City, Iowa, when a man slid into a sign and injured his spinal cord which resulted in a $2.75 million payment by the city.
While Dubuque’s city council opted to ban sledding outright in the city’s parks, other cities have placed warning signs that note “sled at your own risk.” However, as the insurance providers would point out, these signs would not relieve the city of liability like an outright ban does. Paxton, Illinois, was so concerned about liability that they removed the city’s sledding hill entirely.
“It was more of a dirt mound, created years ago to cover a pile of concrete, metal and other junk, recreation director Neal McKenry said, but given how flat the area is, the 20-foot rise often was crowded with sledders. There was concern someone would slam into trees that had grown on the mound.”
Therefore, in 2013, the city decided to remove the hill or dirt mound entirely. Even sledding advocates understand why the bans are being placed in various cities across the country. Steve King, who runs a website that promotes sledding, told the NY Times that he understands the restrictions as many people do not wear helmets. He also points to a lawsuit-happy society as concern.
“We live in a lawsuit-happy society and cities are just being protective by banning sledding in areas that pose a risk for injury or death.”
What do you think? Are cities going to far by banning sledding or is it the most practical solution for avoiding potential lawsuits?