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Be Careful When Renting Inflatable Equipment For Your Child's Next Birthday Party!

bounce-house.jpgThinking of renting inflatable equipment for your child's next birthday party or social event? Be careful! Bounce Houses, Gladiator Jousting Games, inflatable ramps, and other such entertainment rentals can be a big hit at your child's birthday party but a case I recently handled will make you want to think twice about renting such equipment without being extra cautious.

We recently resolved a personal injury lawsuit against a family-owned party rental business in Orlando that rents inflatable party equipment just like the ones in high demand at children's parties. In this case, our client was attending a birthday party where the inflatable rental of choice was a jousting Gladiator Game similar to the one some of you may recall watching on the TV gameshow "American Gladiators" where contestants stood on pedestals, striking their opponents with an inflatable jousting stick until there was only one man left standing and declared winner.

It was all fun and games for our client in the joust until he was unexpectedly struck by his friend's jousting stick that had metal exposed underneath the padded material because it was not properly maintained by the rental company. The jousting was intended to be all in good fun but when our client was struck with the stick, the exposed metal sliced through our client's finger, down to the bone. Our expert determined that the jousting sticks were not properly maintained and multiple cuts in the fabric with exposed metal caused a hazardous condition that almost cost our client a finger! Two surgeries later and some amazing work by the surgeon, our client recovered most of the use in his finger.

WHAT COULD THE BUSINESS HAVE DONE BETTER TO AVOID HURTING OUR CLIENT (OR YOUR CHILD)?

Through our investigation, we learned that while these "inflatable toys" can be great fun and the highlight for the kids, they are anything but harmless fun. In fact, many of you may be surprised to learn that inflatable toys such as these are subject to a set of strict safety guidelines called the ASTM standards on inflatables. For more information, please check out http://www.astm.org/ . The guidelines were specifically enacted to address safety concerns and give operators and renters of such equipment the guidance necessary to properly maintain and rent inflatables to prevent consumers such as our client from getting hurt. For instance, some of the Standards provide written procedures and warnings that should be given to renters and users of the games, written warning placards to be placed on the games, and specific maintenance and storage procedures so the games do not degrade and present safety hazards.

What we discovered is that many of these small business owners who rent the equipment have no idea about the safety standards, do not properly warn consumers, and even worse, fail to store or maintain the games in the safest manner possible. Alarmingly, some owners even did their own repair of the games without so much as reviewing repair manuals specifically detailing the material and tools required for the safe repair of these games.

Let's face it-you want to spoil your kids so they remember their birthdays and who wouldn't? Just be sure to exercise caution if you are going to rent an inflatable for your next party. As seen in the previous blog, there are scenarios where inflatable equipment have led to lawsuits. But there are preventative measures.

Follow these basic guidelines:

1. Check the business out online. Look at the BBB. Read the reviews carefully to see if any pertain to poor quality or faulty equipment.

2. Don't be shy, ask the owner if he has written safety guidelines for the use and maintenance of the games.

3. Do NOT sign a release if possible. Nothing is ever "standard" and signing a release will prevent you from seeking justice against an owner if he was negligent for hurting your child.

4. Inspect, inspect, and INSPECT the games before use! Ask yourself, are there any tears? Does the equipment look old, dirty, and not maintained? Do you see tears in the inflatable fabric? Be sure to ask the owner or renter directly if there have ever been any injuries with these games?

5. Know what to look for before renting the equipment. If your rental of choice is a bounce house, go online and look at the safety concerns so you can address them with the business prior to renting.

6. Go with your gut! If the equipment does not look right upon inspection, do not rent it just to save a buck or some time. Just don't do it. While these games may appear harmless, children can get seriously injured without the proper precautions taken.

Better to be safe than sorry! If you do not feel comfortable with the company, walk away and rent from a more reputable vendor. The amount of children that have been injured on these unsuspecting inflatable games would shock you, especially when harm can be easily avoided with just a little caution and awareness.

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