More than two years after then one-year-old Paula Spolar's hands suffered second-degree burns, the lawsuit between the family and the parties responsible for installing the sizzling metal playground equipment has settled, and quite frankly, the settlement is just $17,500, reports The New York Times.
On June 16, 2010, Spolar was playing at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. As she was walking along, she stumbled a bit and placed her hands on the metal "orb" climbing domes. In an instant, both hands were burned and blistering.
Yep. The children’s playground equipment was as hot as a skillet.
To make matters worse, the dangers of the playground were already known, and only half-measures were undertaken to solve the problem. According to the Daily News, after the paper reported on the issue, the city installed tents above the domes as a temporary measure until the tree canopy could grow out. Though the tents were in place when Spolar was burned, they did not block the sun enough to prevent the domes from heating up.
A case could have been made for negligence against the manufacturer and architect. The conduct of both is compared that of the hypothetical reasonable person. We probably don’t even need to go that far. The idea that the sun would heat metal objects on the ground is so “duh” that the negligence almost speaks for itself.
The “tree canopy” plan is no defense either. Trees take time to grow. The reasonable designers would have transplanted larger trees, or perhaps, made the equipment out of something not resembling a frying pan.
The city’s liability is also somewhat self-evident. Perhaps they shouldn’t be responsible for the initially obviously unintelligent design. However, they likely had a duty to cure the dangerous condition of the equipment when it became known shortly after the March 2010 opening of the playground. Installing a few ineffective tents sure doesn’t seem like a reasonable remedy, does it?
This is all to say that the settlement is especially curious. A total of $17,500 after two years of legal wrangling really is a pittance. Fortunately, Paula Spolar has fully recovered from the burns, which were initially thought to cause permanent damage. Still, between medical expenses and pain and suffering, one could argue that’s a settlement for pennies on the dollar.
As for the city department that failed to decommission the equipment and the designer, their insurance companies will be splitting the tab. They probably spent more than this in one week on attorney’s fees, so this is a deal for them.