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Trial to Decide if 1st Grader is Fully Aware to Assume Risk Monkey Bars Claim Another Victim

A jury should decide whether a six-year-old assumed the risk of injury when he fell off a piece of school playground equipment and was injured, the Supreme Court of New York has ruled.

The plaintiff, a first-grader, was injured in October 2001 when he fell from his school’s monkey bars during recess. The pupil was one of 25-30 first-graders on the playground when the accident occurred. Two teacher’s aides were supervising the students.

The defendant in the case, the Board of Education of the City of Yonkers, apparently had a school rule that prohibited pre-kindergarten to second-grade pupils from playing on school monkey bars. In his initial complaint, the plaintiff argued that the school board was negligent in failing to enforce the rule and in failing to properly supervise him.

The board asked the trial court to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the supervision was inadequate and that the child assumed the risk of injury when he began playing on the monkey bars.

The trial court granted the board’s motion, finding there was no evidence that the alleged accident was a result of negligent supervision. The appellate court disagreed, saying that “while a school is not an insurer of the safety of its students since it cannot reasonably be expected to continuously supervise and control all of their movements and activities, it has a duty to adequately supervise the students in their (sic) charge and they (sic) will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision.” The court went on to say that the plaintiff raised issues of fact to be decided at trial regarding whether the board was negligent in failing to adequately supervise the plaintiff and enforce its rule .

The court also said that a jury should decide whether a first-grader is capable of being fully aware of the risks involved in climbing on monkey bars. The lower court’s decision was reversed and the case was remanded for trial.

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