Chris Stewart, Atlanta (John Disney/ ALM)
With a March trial date approaching, a Minnesota man who broke his neck jumping from a trampoline into a foam pit has settled his claims against the trampoline park for $3 million.
Anthony Seitz, 39, was visiting the AirMaxx Trampoline Park in St. Cloud, Minnesota, with his young son. Seitz bounced from a trampoline into the pit. According to the complaint in the case, Seitz hit the bottom of the pit, broke his neck and is now a quadriplegic.
Stewart, Seay & Felton partner L. Chris Stewart said it was the third case he’s handled involving clients who suffered serious neck or spinal injuries diving into foam pits.
“It’s part of an epidemic of cases at these jump parks,” he said, pointing to a lack of regulation of the facilities that have mushroomed across the country in recent years.
“People are flipping into what they think are safe foam pits,” said Stewart, who filed the litigation in Minnesota District Court with firm partner Eugene Felton and Peter Kestner of McEwen & Kestner in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
“There’s supposed layers of cushioning and netting underneath, but a lot of times people are just digging a hole and filling it with foam blocks,” he said.
Defense attorney Michael Hutchens of Minneapolis’ Meagher & Geer said the park was perfectly safe and that no one had been hurt since it opened four or five years ago.
The park’s operators “did the best they could to make a place that was reasonably safe,” Hutchens said.
Video shot by Seitz’s son show him running down a long trampoline and doing a “rotating forward flip” into the pit, Hutchens said.
Hutchens said Seitz had admitted he had no experience on trampolines.
“Why this fellow decided to try this complex forward flip is beyond me,” said Hutchens. Defense experts had concluded that it was the height and angle of Seitz’s plunge into the blocks that broke his neck, not a problem with cushioning or support, he said.
“It was just a bad landing,” he said.
Hutchens said Seitz was a very sympathetic defendant who had signed a waiver when entering the park that might have complicated his chances at trial.
The case settled at mediation “because we felt really bad for this gentleman,” he said. Lawyers said the resolution was reached last week.
Stewart’s firm previously settled two cases that involved guests injured at the now-closed Rockbridge Adventures in Peachtree City, Georgia, one for $1 million and the other for $450,000.
The first case involved the 2014 jump that caused football coach Jonathan Magwood’s quadriplegia. That incident led to the introduction of the “Jonathan Magwood Trampoline Park Safety Act” at the Georgia General Assembly in 2015. The bill, which would have established standards and inspection protocols for the parks, never made it out of committee.
Stewart said jump parks are essentially unregulated in Georgia and elsewhere.
“This is a billion-dollar industry,” said Stewart. “Somebody has to step forward and get this legislation voted on. Georgians are literally at risk. It’s not just a broken arm if you fall in that pit; you break your neck or fracture your spine … it’s a death trap until there are rules and regulations in place.”