Push to get giant slide removed from Berry’s playground after toddler breaks his leg
A petition has been launched to remove a slippery dive at a playground on the NSW south coast, where at least one family is pursuing legal action after multiple reports of serious injuries.
- Signs erected in the park say the slide is designed to ‘challenge’ children ‘physically and mentally’
- A three-year-old girl broke her leg on the slide this week and a four-year-old girl broke both legs in April
- Lawyers say park signs can absolve council of liability
Boongaree Nature Play Park for all ages at Shoalhaven in 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 started a petition urging Shoalhaven Town Council to get rid of the slide after her three-year-old daughter, Harlow, broke her leg while sliding in tandem.
“I couldn’t believe the speed and force with which we fell,” Mr Liddicoat said.
“There’s a big bend in the middle of the slide, so we climbed over a wall and it pretty much catapulted us into the other wall.
“I can’t forget Harlow’s cry.
“It will be with me forever – it was absolutely blood-chilling.”
The broken legs of a four-year-old child
Mr Liddicoat’s concerns echoed those raised by Tisha Fleming, whose four-year-old daughter broke both legs on the same piece of equipment at the multi-million dollar playground in April.
According to signs erected in the park by Shoalhaven Council, the slide is designed to ‘challenge’ children ‘physically and mentally’.
It also warns parents not to help their children access or use the equipment.
Mr Liddicoat said the sign was not located near where his daughter entered the slide.
He felt that her injuries could have been much worse if she hadn’t been with her on the slippery tub.
“The main thing for me is the crease in the middle of the slide – if it was a rotating gradient curve, or if they could make it a bit smaller, it might prevent other kids from getting hurt,” said Mr. Liddicoat.
“I think the rest of the park looked great and I’m not trying to take the fun out of the other kids.
“But you expect your kids to be safe and not walk away with a broken leg.”
The online petition had already gathered around 100 signatures.
The ABC is aware of at least one family who is taking legal action against the council, as well as another family who have contacted a law firm.
“Hard to activate” loopholes
James Govan of Wollongong’s Acorn Lawyers in Wollongong says that under the State Liability Act 2002 the council has little legal culpability if warning signs are erected.
“It’s pretty clear in the legislation…there’s a particular section in the law that’s called ‘no duty of care for recreational activities where a warning of risk is given,'” he said.
“If an appropriate risk warning is given, the defendant has, at least potentially, a full defense to any claim.
“It doesn’t have to be a specific warning – it can just be a very general warning and it should be placed in such a way that it is reasonably likely to bring it to people’s attention before they use the equipment.”
Mr Govan said the waiver forms used in private operations were an “even more powerful force” in protecting businesses and organizations from legal challenges.
“There are loopholes, but it’s very difficult to activate them,” he said.
“Claims will always be defended very fiercely by the councils, by their insurers and their lawyers.”
Shoalhaven Council has been contacted for a response.
In a previous statement, he said the play equipment was designed and certified to current standards.