What you need to know so you won’t get bounced.
By Kay K. Morgan
Parents of young children know the birthday party appeal of inflatables like bounce houses, trampolines, and moonwalks. But it’s no picnic to learn that your homeowner’s insurance won’t be of any help if someone gets hurt on a blow-up dragon slide in your front yard at your kid’s celebration. A few tips may help ensure your next shindig with inflatables won’t be a bust and that you don’t get bounced into state court with a lawsuit on your hands.
The most important tip to keep in mind when renting an inflatable is to rent from a reputable vendor. A reputable and a “legal” vendor in Texas must: (1) be fully insured and (2) have a current Texas Amusement Ride Compliance Sticker (similar to an automobile safety inspection sticker) from the Texas Department of Insurance, or TDI, for each inflatable that is rented with that device’s vend/serial number on the sticker.1 The stickers must be obtained annually, and the filing fee is $40 for each sticker.2 Ask for a copy of the sticker if one is not displayed on the inflatable and make sure it is current for the year. To check for vendor compliance, go to http://www.tdi.texas.gov/commercial/documents/lcamcurrentsticker.pdf. This list is updated weekly and shows the name of the vendor and the inspection expiration date. If a vendor is listed on the TDI website, then that vendor is in compliance with the regulations requiring annual inspections and liability insurance in the amounts specified in Chapter 2151 of the Texas Occupations Code, or TOC, as discussed below.3
The TDI regulates amusement rides for safety and liability. It has determined by law that inflatable devices are considered amusement rides. TOC defines an amusement ride as “a mechanical, gravity, or water device or devices that carry or convey passengers along, around, or over a fixed or restricted route or course or within a defined area for the purpose of giving its passengers amusement, pleasure, or excitement.”4 The TDI classifies amusement rides as either a “Class A” ride (“Any amusement ride with a fixed location and designed primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger”6) or a “Class B” ride (“Any amusement ride not defined as a Class A amusement ride”7).
By definition, “inflatables” are a Class B ride. Under TOC8 and the Texas Administrative Code,9 Class B amusement ride compliance for continuous air flow inflatables requires limits of liability of $1,000,000 bodily injury per occurrence and $500,000 property damage per occurrence.10
The inspection for the TDI Texas Amusement Ride Compliance Sticker is performed by an approved inspector of the insurance company issuing the insurance policy.11 TDI does not inspect rides; rather, the ride’s owner or vendor’s own insurance company inspects the rides. The sticker indicates that the ride has met the standards required by the manufacturer, insurer, and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials.12 However, recognition by the TDI that the amusement ride has satisfied these standards is not an endorsement by the TDI of a statement regarding the safe operation of the amusement ride.
Five tips when renting an inflatable such as a bounce house, slide, or moonwalk:
Vendors: Check the TDI website and rent your inflatable only from a reputable vendor who can provide you with a current Amusement Ride Compliance Sticker showing insurance and annual inspection and make sure that the sticker is current and the vend/serial number matches the inflatable vend/serial number that you are renting;
Equipment: Rent inflatables that are suitable for the age group participants;
Supervision: Don’t use the inflatable as a babysitter. Constant and reliable supervision is paramount in maintaining a safe event;
Weather: Have a plan B for inclement weather. Check the warning label on the inflatables for information on high winds and what is or is not sustainable for use of the inflatable you are renting. Using the inflatable in thunderstorms and rain, regardless of size, is generally unacceptable; and
Safety Rules: Ask the vendor from whom you are renting the inflatable what specific safety rules apply to the particular inflatable you are leasing and review any warning label or manufacturer instructions.
Following these tips may help to make your next “inflatable” birthday
party or event safe and successful so that you don’t get
This article, which was originally published on the Merlin Law Group’s blog, has been edited and reprinted with permission.
KAY K. MORGAN
is an associate of the Merlin Law Group in Houston, where she focuses on legal research and writing. The foundation for that focus was laid in 1979 when she was awarded a clerkship with the Hon. John R. Brown, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Throughout her career, Morgan has practiced in large and small firms and represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of practice areas but finds her present representation of policyholders against insurance companies perhaps the most rewarding.