A petition has been started to remove a slippery dip at a playground on the New South Wales South Coast, where at least one family is pursuing legal action after more reports of serious injuries.
- Signs erected at the park say the slide is designed to “challenge” children “physically and mentally”
- A three-year-old broke her leg on the slide this week and a four-year-old suffered two broken legs in April
- Lawyers say the signs at the park may indemnify the council from liability
Shoalhaven’s all-ages Boongaree Nature Play Park at Berry opened in January and since then dozens of parents say the giant slide has left their children with broken bones, facial fractures and burnt skin.
On Monday Mitchell Liddicoat launched a petition urging Shoalhaven City Council to get rid of the slide after his three-year-old daughter, Harlow, broke her leg when they slid down in tandem.
“I couldn’t believe the speed and the force that we actually went down with,” Mr Liddicoat said.
“There’s quite a large kink in the middle of the slide, so we went up one wall and it pretty much catapulted us into the other wall.
“I can’t forget Harlow’s scream.
“It will be with me forever—it was absolutely bloodcurdling.”
Four-year-old’s legs broken
Mr Liddicoat’s concerns echoed those raised by Tisha Fleming, whose four-year-old daughter broke both her legs on the same piece of equipment at the multi-million-dollar playground in April.
According to signs erected at the park by Shoalhaven Council, the slide is designed to “challenge” children “physically and mentally”.
It also warns parents not to assist their children to access or use the equipment.
Mr Liddicoat said the sign was not located near where his daughter accessed the slide.
He felt her injuries could have been much worse if she had not been with her on the slippery dip.
“The main thing for me is the kink in the middle of the slide — if it was a gradient curve that went around, or they could make it a bit smaller, it might stop other kids from getting hurt,” Mr Liddicoat said.
“I think the rest of the park seemed great and I’m not trying to take fun away from other children.
“But you do expect your kids to be safe and not walk away with a broken leg.”
The online petition had attracted about 100 signatures so far.
The ABC is aware of at least one family that is pursuing legal action against the council, as well as another family that has contacted a law firm.
Loopholes ‘hard to activate’
James Govan from Wollongong’s Acorn Lawyers in Wollongong says under the state’s 2002 Civil Liability Act the council has little legal culpability if warning signs are erected.
“It is quite clear in the legislation … there is a particular section in the act which is headed ‘no duty of care for recreational activity where risk warning is given,'” he said.
“If an appropriate risk warning is given the defendant has, at least potentially, a complete defense to any claim.
“It doesn’t have to be a specific warning — it can just be a very general warning and it has to be placed in such a way that it is reasonably likely to bring it to the people’s attention before they use the equipment.”
Mr Govan said waiver forms used at private operations were an even more “powerful force” for protecting businesses and organizations from legal challenges.
“There are loopholes, but it’s very hard to activate them,” he said.
“The claims will always be very strenuously defended by councils, by their insurers and their lawyers.”
Shoalhaven Council has been contacted for a response.
In a previous statement it said the play equipment had been designed and certified as compliant with the relevant standards.