Sledding Skids to Halt on Cities' Liability Fears

Fearing lawsuits, officials shut down hills
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2015 8:42 AM CST
Sledding Skids to Halt on Cities' Liability Fears
Aleks Mcelheny, 3, of Plainfield, Mich., eats snow as he sleds at Johnson Park in Walker, Mich., Jan. 4, 2015.   (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Joel Bissell)

When a childhood pastime comes with a million-dollar price tag, sometimes the pastime loses out. In recent years, a 5-year-old's sledding injury led to a $2 million lawsuit against Omaha, Neb., while another case saw Sioux City, Iowa, paying $2.75 million. Such cases are prompting cities in states from Nebraska to New Jersey to crack down on sledding, banning the practice on many hills, the AP reports. Dubuque, Iowa, for instance, is poised to ban most sledding, allowing it in only two parks. The planned ban "stinks," a city council member tells KCRG, "but if we get hit with one of these (suits), it's a lot of money for our citizens." In other cases, city signs note that sledders do so at their own risk.

The city of Paxton, Ill., even physically removed a sledding hill. It wasn't a natural one: The city had basically used dirt to hide a pile of concrete and junk. Trees were growing at the site, and some feared that sledders would hit them. "We live in a lawsuit-happy society, and cities are just being protective by banning sledding in areas that pose a risk for injury or death," says a man who runs a sledding website. That risk is very real: One study found that in the decade ending in 2007, sledding-related injuries landed some 20,000 kids a year in the ER. But one mom tells the AP she thinks individuals, not the government, should take responsibility. "You need to have a mindset to make the best decisions for your own safety," she notes. (More US cities stories.)

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