Arts & Entertainment and Government

Legislature approves trampoline safety rules and liability protection

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LANSING — Jumpers bouncing around indoor trampoline parks have new rules to follow under a bill narrowly approved by state lawmakers.

The new law says park owners have to post rules, and users must follow them. If jumpers accept certain risks, it protects trampoline court owners from injury-related lawsuits.

“The goal is to create certainty and understanding of the responsibilities between the customers and the owners,” said bill sponsor state Sen. David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “There wasn’t a clearly defined law of customer and owner responsibility, and we found that people would not follow the rules and get injured, resulting in lawsuits.”

The bill, which still must be signed by the governor before it becomes law, requires owners to comply with safety standards published in 2013 by the American Society for Testing and Material. They also must explain the park’s safety rules and jumper obligations before people can jump.

The standards govern park construction and look at items such as padding placement and depth of foam pits, said Brent Breems, owner of the Sky Zone franchise in Grand Rapids. Sky Zone is an international indoor trampoline park that pushed for the legislation. It has another Michigan location in Canton.

The bill requires park owners to provide waiver forms, a clear explanation of rules and court monitors to watch jumpers, said Breems.

“Basically, what the act says is, if I do my job as a park owner and we have good rules and people who enforce them, the jumpers take on individual responsibility for themselves,” said Colleen Fitzgerald, owner of the Sky Zone in Canton.

The bill recently passed the House 57-53 and the Senate 25-9. Not everyone is convinced it is a good idea. Opposition came from both Republicans and Democrats.

“The trampoline courts are expanding and need regulation, but not one proposed by those in the industry,” said Rep. Theresa Abed, D-Grand Ledge. “It does not go far enough and it protects the industry more than it helps the consumer. We need something that looks at risks for families, children and young people, rather than the immunity of the company.”

Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Spring Arbor Township, argued that the bill replaces business judgment with government judgment. Insurers can evaluate risks to trampoline court owners and charge them accordingly, he said. If the cost is too high, that says jumping is too dangerous.

Rules at Sky Zone limit one person per trampoline, prohibit running and allow no more than two single flips. Jumpers must only do flips within their abilities, Fitzgerald said.

The bill does not apply to owners of gymnastics clubs or facilities where skills are taught and developed at the request of USA Gymnastics, a gymnastics association.

“This is more for recreational parks, and gymnastics is more for training and professional athletes,” said Fred Schaible, Hildenbrand’s chief of staff.

It was modeled after Michigan’s roller-skating rink safety act, which similarly aims to protect rink owners from having to worry about constant lawsuits, Hildenbrand said.

“There are people out there who want to sue somebody if something bad happens, and there are attorneys that encourage that,” said Fitzgerald. “This offers us similar protection to what roller rink industries and equestrian industries already have since we are a new industry.”

The main injuries that occur at Sky Zone are twisted ankles or getting hit during trampoline dodge ball, Fitzgerald said.

The injury rate for Sky Zone Canton’s first year of operation was one-tenth of a percent of customers, Fitzgerald said.

It is unclear how many trampoline courts are in Michigan. The website lists four in the state; however, the list is incomplete.

Recent Articles by Danielle Woodward - Capital News Service

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