LAWLINK – Who is liable if a neighbours child gets injured at my house?

boy in blue and white striped shirt climbing on yellow metal fence
Photo: Unsplash.

Q: We have three kids, all under 10, and one of them got a very large trampoline for their birthday. Now that school is off and the weather is fine (-ish!) it is becoming a bit of a landmark for other kids in the estate. I have no problem with this, of course, all the kids on the road are friends. However, sometimes some of the kids (my own included) get a bit too spirited and I feel like I have to keep a constant watch on them in case something happens. Someone mentioned that I needed to be very careful as me and my home insurance would be liable for any injury. Can you advise?

Dear Reader,

Many thanks for your query. The first thing to note is that as the owner of the property on which the trampoline is located, and indeed the trampoline itself, you might potentially be the person liable if any child was injured.

Under the Occupiers Liability Act, you have a duty of care to a ‘recreational user’ not to intentionally injure such a person (of course) or not to be reckless with regard to such potential for injury.

There are a number of factors to bear in mind when establishing whether someone was ‘reckless’ in allowing an injury, including being aware that there was a danger, taking steps to reduce the danger, giving any warning due to be given to the person, etc. A warning to a child would not of course carry the same kind of weight as that to an adult.

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You also have a positive duty to ensure that the trampoline itself remains physically sound. Every case would stand on its own merits, but supervision of the children and stopping dangerous play would be very important.

It should also be noted that the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 provides that any visitor “who is capable of comprehending the nature and extent of risks” may be deemed to voluntarily accept those risks and you would not therefore be liable. That Bill is at an advanced stage but may be subject to change and it is not, at the time of writing, the law of the land.

You should also check your home insurance policy to ensure that, if an accident does happen, that you are fully covered. Every policy is different. Some specifically exclude activities like this for visitors, some will provide cover only if the trampoline is on a soft area away from walls and is attended by an adult at all times. You should ensure that you are fully covered in the event of any unfortunate accident.

Perhaps getting rid of the trampoline might solve all problems!