Eight Year Old Girl Falls During Hide-And-Seek, Parents Sue United Church

Suing a church? A case of lawsuits run amuck?

Before leaping to conclusions, consider a few facts.

  • The game of hide-and-seek was supervised at an afterschool program provided by the United Church in the church hall.
  •  The lights in the hall were turned out to add excitement to the game.
  •  Approximately 17 children between the ages of 6 and 8 were engaged in the game.
  • The game continued for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • The children were allowed to play in stocking feet.
  • An 8-year-old girl tripped on the outstretched legs of another child and hit her head on the floor.

Hum… starts to look a little different from the point of view of whether this game was safe or not. If the child had not been injured, then no harm no fault. But the eight-year-old girl suffered significant and permanent brain damage, and that is why her parents decided to get serious and brought lawyers into the picture.

People with specialized or expert knowledge can often help to shed light on issues of safety, and whether what looks like a blameless accident could actually have been prevented by some foresight and more reasonable attention to safety issues. In this children-at-play case, we consulted an expert in early childhood education at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our expert told us that games like hide-and-seek are more safely played outdoors where there are no physical obstacles, with a small number of children, in full view of those supervising the children. If played indoors, smaller numbers, no obstacles, no running and a clear view for supervisors are all rules to ensure safety. Games should be played over a relatively short period, and 30 or 45 minutes is too long. Games should not be played in the dark. Seventeen young children in a room playing a chasing game is too many. And children should be required to use appropriate footwear.

We all want our children to remain safe in their play environments, and the above rules of safety all seem reasonable and necessary when you think about it. Not only does the law of tort help to achieve the goal of compensation for those injured by negligence, but it is part of a process of educating all of us to be aware of safety and the precautions which we ought reasonably to take to avoid needless injury to children and to adults like.