Monkeying Around with Playground Equipment

I have to edit myself when I write about lawsuits and insurance claims situations. An insurance blog is not the place to be snarky and pass judgment on plaintiffs or defendants.

When I comment on cases, I realize I’m not privy to all the facts. Claims stories are simply give an opportunity to highlight insurance coverages that might help you and your organization.

Monkey Bars

Monkeying Around

Without further ado, I present to you the Kansas monkey bar lawsuit. Three families sued their school district after one children from each got injured while playing on new monkey bar equipment on the school’s playground.

Apparently, there weren’t any “ladder steps” according to the mother of one of the children.

Back in my day (ca 1980–when I was roughly 9), a broken bone was a badge of courage. But again, I don’t know the details. It really could have been a horrible set of equipment that caused the damage. You know, one of Irwin Mainway’s (aka Dan Akroyd) concepts along the lines of a ‘Bag o’ Glass’ from Mainway’s toys.

Addressing Playground Risks

Again, I’m not taking the injuries lightly. That’s why it’s important to look at the lessons from this story.

What are some coverages and other risk management measures pertinent to this type of situation?

  1. General Liability: This is the policy that appeared to have paid the settlement. General liability for nonprofits does what general liability for most small businesses does: provides the organization coverage for injuries or property damage to a third party. In this case, the children and their families were the third parties. The injuries were broken bones. The alleged negligence was monkey bars without “ladder steps.”
  2. Student Accident Policy: A Student Accident Policy provides for medical payments (usually capped ato $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000–but limits vary) for incidental, no fault injuries to students. Kids will be kids, as they say, so a few stitches and twisted ankles can be the norm. This policy addresses those injuries without having folks having to call 1-800-I-Am-Hurt.
  3. Supervision: This is your basic risk management. It’s important to have the right number of adults present when kids are playing. It’s important that there is some oversight. It’s always helpful to a plan to supervise students when they are in more open spaces. Nobody can keep eyes on all children at every moment, but strategic location of folks over 21 is helpful.
  4. Age-Appropriate Equipment: My daughter is in kindergarten. Her class plays on smaller equipment than do the 4th and 5th graders. It only makes sense. Her legs and arms are shorter. And, while coordinated beyond her years, she’s still only 5.  Further, if students of various ages are mixed, it’s a far greater possibility for the inadvertent tackling of a little six year old by a early-onset-puberty kid in the 5th grade.

Kids Being Kids Or Negligence, It Doesn’t Really Matter

In the end, it’s about protecting the children and the organization. It’s never good when children get hurt, regardless of fault. And unless there’s a valid reason for a school’s destruction, it’s also helpful for a school to have plenty of financial protection should they have to pay out the big one.

Discuss these coverages and all risk management with your agent, board, and other risk management professionals to make sure your program meets your needs.


  1. What coverages do you have in place to address these issues?
  2. What other risk management ideas have you implemented around child playground safety?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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