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Opinion: Claims culture is out of control - as play centres close due to being sued for kids falling

Kids fall, that is what they do, it can happen anywhere. If they fall at Granny’s – do we sue the pants off Granny?

Grace Vaughan

“I’M A MUM of two small children so if I am negligent in any way, of course, people have a right of recourse,” said Linda Murray, of Huckleberry’s Den, in Navan. “But don’t claim from a business because your child was there having fun and tripped or fell which can happen anywhere.”

Murray was reacting to the threat of closure to her own play centre because of spiralling insurance costs on foot of claims. 12 people are employed there. 

What she said resonates with me because as a working mother of two, I know what it’s like trying to rear a family and run a business at the same time.

It’s tough. Juggling both is not without headaches. And when your business is threatened, so is your livelihood – and that of your children’s.

But there’s a deeper resonance, two of my children ended up receiving medical treatment after a fall at two separate play centres. Did I sue the play centres?

No, I did not – and nor did it enter my head for a minute to do so. 

Why? Because children fall. That’s what they do.

The play centres were in no way at fault, on the contrary, they were facilitating my kids in having such a good time; they became excitable and weren’t watching where they were going.

Kids fall, it can happen anywhere, it happens at home and it happens at Granny’s.
Do we sue the pants off Granny? Of course, we don’t.

That would be like cutting off our nose to spite our face because Granny is oftentimes the unpaid childminder.

But yet some people feel entitled to file a claim against a play centre, putting someone else’s livelihood at risk because it’s a business and sure won’t the insurance company shell out?

Yes, the insurance company may shell out but at a heavy price to the business and in this case play centres.

In Navan town alone the problem has reached a crisis point. Huckleberry’s Den has seen their insurance premium jump from €2,500 to €16,500 in just five years while another local play centre in Navan, LoLoTown has already closed as a result of the premium hikes.

Is this ridiculous situation being replicated in towns all around Ireland?

No one is arguing that in legitimate cases parents shouldn’t be allowed to file injurious claims but we’re not talking about finding a piece of glass in little Johnny’s pizza.

We’re talking about superficial injuries like cuts, scrapes and bruises that are grossly exaggerated to gain maximum pay-out.

Quick healing injuries that are so blown out of proportion, falsely categorised to be deemed life-changing and having long term physiological and psychological effects.

We are all losers here. Mothers like me who rely gratefully on play centres for hosting birthday parties out of the home. New mothers who use play centres as a social outlet for mixing with other mothers.

Or fathers looking for somewhere dry and warm to take his kids on a winter day off.

And the biggest losers are the children. Not just for the obvious reason, that their favourite place of play with their friends is no more.

Worse than that their innocent world has been interrupted by cynicism and opportunist greed, traits that stunt the mind.

‘If you want a child’s mind to grow, you must first plant a seed’ – healthy seeds, culturing accountability, a sense of community and consideration for others.

It is time to stand up to the growing scourge of claims culture in our society, we need to radically overhaul the entire legal framework that facilitates massive claims for exaggerated injuries. 

If we don’t move soon, it is only a matter of time until someone does try to take a claim against Granny!

Grace Vaughan is a mother and writer, who lives in Co Meath.

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Grace Vaughan

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