The Chicago Park District must do more to publicize playground age restrictions if it wants them to be the basis of legal immunity, a state appeals panel has ruled.
The First District Appellate Court, in an unpublished order decision by Justice Robert E. Gordon, found that signs must be posted at the park and that any ordinances restricting the age of users of playground equipment must be published in order for the park district to claim immunity.
The case, Artenia Bowman v. Chicago Park District, involved a 13-year-old girl who fractured her ankle on a slide with a hole in it, which the park district claimed was intended for children under 12. In July 2011, the child’s mother filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court seeking recovery of medical expenses. Bowman alleged that the park district had received several complaints about the broken slide and had failed to fix it.
The park district raised an affirmative defense, arguing that the girl was in violation of an ordinance restricting the use of playgrounds for younger children to those between ages 5 and 12. Whether or not there was a sign indicating the age restriction on the day the girl was injured remained in question, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the park district in June 2013.
On appeal, Judge Gordon wrote that there was no evidence that the park district took measures to enforce the age restrictions, and that there was no way for a child to know that such a restriction existed.
Paul Greenberg of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represented Bowman. Greenberg noted that while the ordinance in question refers to park equipment intended for use by younger children, it does not specify which equipment or locations are age-restricted. Greenberg said that the ruling is important because the park district will now have to publicize the ordinance and/or post signs if it wants to restrict playground users to certain age groups.