Children’s parties – when merriment turns to misery

What happens if things go wrong and someone is injured at a party? Are parents and guardians legally responsible for making sure the venue is safe? And if another parent leaves their child at a party alone, are the hosts accountable for their safety?

11th June 2018

Children’s parties are a heady mix of celebration and fun for family and friends.

With the popularity of activity-based parties, such as paintball, rock climbing, petting zoos and inflatable obstacle courses, parties are more fun but also more dangerous than ever before.

So what happens if things go wrong and someone is injured at a party? Are parents and guardians legally responsible for making sure the venue is safe? And if another parent leaves their child at a party alone, are the hosts accountable for their safety?

Sarah Garner, solicitor at DAS Law, explains where the law stands and gives you the vital information you need to know…

Who is responsible if a child is injured at a party?

The responsibility of ensuring a child’s safety at a party lies with the host.  This could be yourself if you are holding a child’s party in your own home, as you owe a duty of care to visitors at your home.

If you are holding a party at a venue such as a sports hall or church hall for example, then the owner of the venue will have an obligation to ensure that they remove any potential risks that could cause a child to become injured. Failure to do this could result in a personal injury claim being pursued against them.

Who is responsible for ensuring the safety of children using the party/entertainment facilities e.g. bouncy castle, giant slides and animals at the mobile petting zoo?

In many cases, the operator is likely to be responsible for accidents sustained as a result of use of entertainment facilities such as bouncy castles, giant slides and animals at a mobile petting zoo. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires controllers or operators of equipment such as bouncy castles to carry out risk assessments to determine measures to avoid risk or reduce risk to acceptable levels.

Also the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires inflatable devices to be inspected at suitable intervals to ensure that the equipment is safe, and that any deterioration is detected and that any repairs to or replacement of the equipment can be made.

You could however be liable if you have hired equipment and failed to ensure that children are adequately supervised in using this equipment, either by yourself or by arranging a host from the venue where the party is being held.

If I am the host, what are my legal responsibilities to ensure the safety of all guests?

If you are hosting a children’s party you should ensure that you carry out a risk assessment to identify any hazards that could result in an injury being sustained by any of your guests.

In order to be liable for a personal injury claim, the guest would have to evidence that you have been negligent and that any injury was reasonably foreseeable. Even where parents are present you still have a duty of care to all persons visiting your property.

If children are injured under the supervision of their parents then this is likely to be an argument that you can raise in defence or mitigation but ultimately if the injury was due to a risk not removed on your property you would be liable.

If I am hiring party/entertainment facilities, what is the necessary safety or insurance documents I should ask to see from the supplier?

If hiring a party or entertainments facility, you should ask to see a copy of their public liability insurance and should be very careful of booking any supplier who refuses to provide it or confirms that they do not have insurance.

Would my home insurance policy provide protection against any claim made against me?

Your home insurance may provide protection in the event that someone tries to pursue a claim against you. You should contact your home insurance provider in the event of legal action being threatened against you.

It may also be worth you contacting your insurance provider prior to hosting a birthday party to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance in place.

Do I have additional responsibilities to ensure the safety of children who may attend the party without their parents?

Occasions may arise where a parent does not stay at the party to accompany their child. This is generally in the cases where a child is older.

Your level of responsibility will depend on where the party is being held. If the venue is your home then you have a duty of care to ensure the safety of that child whilst in your care.

The duty is higher in the cases of children as opposed to adults who attend your home and they are deemed to have a lower understanding of what may pose a danger to them. If the party is being held at an alternative location such as a leisure centre or a trampoline park, then your level of responsibility will depend on whether the venue has appointed someone to supervise the activity.

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