Liability concerns fuel today’s paranoia

After years of rebuilding playgrounds because they were deemed unsafe, they now want kids to do jumps over concrete in skate parks?

Spring came suddenly to the Rossland Range over the Easter weekend. After weeks of heavy, late-season snow, intense sunshine replaced the clouds and fog, leaving a sodden, sticky base for skiers at Red Mountain.

Blue sky is all that’s really needed for a great day on the slopes at this time of year, but I figured a bit of wax would heighten my skiing pleasure.

A trip to the Red Mountain ski shop provided not only lubrication but a good laugh as well.

Before they would agree to a $15 wax job I had to sign a waiver and initial it twice more for good measure. I felt like I had skied into an old M*A*S*H* episode where smarty-pants clerk Radar patiently explains to Col. Blake that he is signing to acknowledge that he will be initialing the form instead of providing the standard signature.

Since the risk of injury and death is an innate part of sliding rapidly downhill between trees and rocks and then riding a chairlift back into the sky, the ski industry can be excused for its twitchiness.

Where real paranoia about legal liability can be found is among many of our public institutions.

It is hilarious that municipalities, including several locally, are keen to build skate parks.

After years of rebuilding and replacing playgrounds because the sand under the swings wasn’t soft enough and teeter-totters were deemed a menace, they now want kids to do jumps and flips over concrete.

Parents are integral to this lunacy. When their children are two they make them wear helmets and seatbelts to ride those little plastic recumbent trikes on which the kid is an inch off the ground and the top speed is about .5 km/h. When he gets bigger, they buy him those nifty skis with the turned up backs so he go faster when jumping off cliffs backwards. Helmets are mandatory, parachutes optional.

The Birchbank golf course is getting into the game this season by limiting the drinking water available on the course to the kind you purchase at great expense (relative to what you are getting: tap water) from little plastic bottles.

The concern is that birds and squirrels will contaminate the water the club has been dispensing from plastics urns, which are cleaned, disinfected and filled daily before being locked in wooden stands on the course.

The liability concern stems from an incident in Arizona in 2002 when 84 junior golfers contracted the Norwalk virus after drinking contaminated water. One of them died, not from the virus but after choking on his own vomit, and his family won a $3 million claim against the course.

During a cursory Internet search I could find no other instances of water-borne tragedies at golf courses. But there are cases of serious injury and death for golfers falling out of motorized carts and being hit by balls, clubs and lightning.

It should also be noted that Birchbank is located, not in the United States, but in Canada, where civil damages for pain and suffering and to punish the bad behaviour of defendants are miniscule in comparison to those faced by our more litigious American neighbours.

Where there are big awards for personal injuries in Canada, they tend to be for spinal and brain injuries sustained in automobile accidents.

Kind of what you would expect from falling out of a golf cart after too many beers from the mobile beverage service at Birchbank or hitting a vehicle while traversing the course access road and parking lot between nines, where no traffic or liability-limiting warning signs are to be seen.

But the club has the squirrels on the run, so be sure to bring a couple litres of water or enough money for the beverage cart the next time you golf on one of our typically scorching summer days.

Oh, and you might want to ignore Judge Judy and any other U.S.-based sources of legal information that you are privy to and go back to encasing your kid in bubble wrap for the trip to the post office in her pram.

Raymond Masleck is a retired Times reporter and an avid but dangerously bad golfer. Don’t stand beside, behind, or anywhere near him when he is swinging, and cover the ears of children when his post-swing commentary commences. Please sign here signifying that you have read and understood this liability waiver.


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