Jumping stilts (also called bounce stilts or spring stilts) are recreational devices like regular stilts, but are built for performing tricks and acrobatics. They contain fiberglass springs and they bounce like pogo sticks. A pair of them allows the person to jump very high. Using only their weight, and a few movements, the user is generally able to jump 3–5 feet off the ground and run up to 20 mph. They also give the stiltwalker the ability to take up to 9-foot strides.
Due to the jumping and bouncing action of the devices, they can expose the user to serious risks of injury and accident. Jumping stilts injuries may include:
- Head, neck, and spine injuries
- Broken bones
- Sprains and strains
- More serious injuries such as skull fractures, paralysis, and even death
More “extreme” jumping stilts users perform even more advanced maneuvers, such as spins and flips. These tricks can expose the user to even greater injuries.
Jumping stilts injuries can be similar to trampoline injuries. However, they are often much more serious than trampoline injuries because the stilts are mostly used on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. Even when used on grass like a trampoline, jumping stilts can be dangerous.
Who Can be Held Liable for a Jumping Stilts Injury?
Various parties can be held liable for a jumping stilts injury. In many cases, an injury or accident can be traceable to a defect with the jumping stilt product. For instance, there may have been a manufacturing defect with the springs, the poles, or other parts. In such cases, the manufacturer, distributor and/or seller might be held liable under a product liability theory of law. Or there may have been an accident because an individual person acted negligently, and the theory of the lawsuit will be negligence.
What is Product Liability?
Product liability refers to an area of law that defines the level of responsibility imposed upon businesses that are involved with the sale, manufacture, and distribution of products that result in harm to consumers. A product liability claim is when a consumer files a lawsuit against the manufacturer or a seller for placing a defective consumer product in the stream of commerce and making it available for purchase by the general public. Both the manufacturer and the seller of the product can be sued.
A product liability case can arise if the product was poorly designed, or if it was designed well but the manufacture was faulty. In the example, the company may have designed the stilts with an inferior wood or metal, resulting in design product liability. Or the design might have been fine but when it was time to manufacture the stilts, the wrong material was used.
Some product liability cases may be filed as a class action suit if many persons are being injured by a defective jumping stilt product. In a class action suit, a group of plaintiffs are all represented by an individual (or small number of individuals), known as the class representative or lead plaintiff.
Typically, members of a class action lawsuit must all have been harmed in the same way by a defective product or there must have been some other actionable offense that had widespread effects. Class action lawsuits are a way that those who have been hurt in a jumping stilt accident can obtain at least partial relief without needing to personally file a lawsuit.
What is Negligence?
In addition to product liability, there is another theory that a lawyer will consider if a stilts-related injury has occurred. This is known as negligence. In some cases a jumping stilt accident can involve other persons rather than a company. Someone can walk in front of the stilt user without taking enough care and cause the stilt user to fall. That could be a regular pedestrian or it could be another stilt user who isn’t being careful.
In a parade, a car or a float can come too close to the stilt performer and cause a fall or worse – a collision between the car or float and the stilt user. If these persons act with negligence they can be held responsible for the suffering the performer undergoes.
Negligence is the legal theory that allows injured persons to recover for the carelessness or recklessness of others. A person is negligent if they were careless given the circumstances of the situation.There are four requirements to prove a negligence case:
- Duty: The first element to prove is that there was a duty to act with “reasonable care.” What constitutes reasonable care will vary depending on the circumstances, and judges and juries take a relatively common sense approach to decide if someone has acted sufficiently carefully or not. For example, in the case of people who are in the vicinity of a stilt walker, a jury would expect them to stay out of the way of the performer and not put their safety in jeopardy.
- Breach: The person or company failed to act with reasonable care. In the case described above, if an inexperienced person used roller skates around the stiltwalker when they knew they did not have good control over the skates, that would be a breach of the duty of care.
- Causation: The defendant’s behavior must be what caused the injury. In some cases both parties may have had part of the fault of causing the accident. That does not mean that the lawsuit cannot be won, but only that the stiltwalker’s damages will be reduced by whatever part the jury finds was the stiltwalker’s part (e.g., if it was three-fourths the roller skater’s fault and one-fourth the stilt user’s fault, the award of damages will be reduced by 25%).
- Damages: There must have been some damage that occurred. That could include medical bills, hospital bills, lost days of work, the cost of broken equipment, or more. The jury will total up the out-of-pocket damages the stilt user has had. In some cases, an award of damages can also be made to cover the stilt-walker’s pain and suffering. This is most common when the person was not just careless, but was reckless.
What Are the Legal Remedies for Jumping Stilt Accidents or Injuries?
In many cases, a jumping stilt accident may require legal action to remedy. Such lawsuits may result in a monetary damages award to compensate the non-liable party for their injuries. The award will likely include medical costs, hospital expenses, property damage, and associated costs.
If the defendant’s behavior was especially egregious, remedies may include an order to pay “punitive damages,” damages meant to penalize the defendant. Particularly when collected from a corporation, these damages can be quite high, often many times the cost of the out-of-pocket damages.
Remedies can also include other measures such as a product recall.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Jumping Stilts Injury Claim?
Jumping stilt injuries can be very serious and can lead to long term conditions. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer in your area if you need assistance with a legal claim. Whether a party can be held legally responsible for injuries caused by defective consumer products or an accident will largely depend on state-specific laws and the circumstances surrounding an individual case.
Therefore, it can be very important to consult a local lawyer before deciding whether or not there is a good basis for a lawsuit. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice, research, and guidance for your case. Also, if you need to appear in court, your lawyer can be available to represent you during those processes as well.