Roller Skating Accidents: How Roller Rink Operators Can Defend Against Fall Down Claims


 By: Barry S. Brownstein

Roller skating is a family-friendly-activity that combines fun and exercise.  Skaters can burn calories and improve their cardiovascular health while looping, turning, spinning and backward skating across the rink floor.  However, accidents at roller skating rinks can occur.  Most accidents result from trips and falls caused by collisions with other skaters. Skating experience, rink surfaces, skate type and quality, and protective equipment are all factors involved in skating accidents.  Roller skaters injured at roller skating rinks may be able to sue the owner and/or operator of the rink for personal injuries that arise from skating accidents. Therefore, rink owners and operators must exercise diligence in their operational responsibilities to help limit their liability exposure and keep patrons’ skates rolling.

            Generally, a roller rink operator owes its patrons a duty to keep its premises in a reasonably safe and suitable condition so that patrons are not unnecessarily or unreasonably exposed to danger.  Therefore, rink operators must warn and supervise their patrons and maintain and inspect the skating rink.  Rink operators must post signs listing their legal responsibilities and skaters’ legal responsibilities.   Trained floor supervisors must be on the rink floor during skating sessions to ensure safety, direct traffic and enforce the rink’s rules.  Additionally, rink operators must keep their skating surface clean and inspected daily and in a reasonably safe condition, including regular refinishing of skating surfaces.  Rink owners should also hire qualified employees to check rental skates on a regular basis to ensure skates are in good condition. Rink operators are also charged with keeping fire extinguishers, emergency exit lights and signs noting areas where skates can and cannot be worn.

            However, even rink operators that take these measures and other precautions cannot always avoid claims for every personal injury.  Roller skating accident claims are often difficult to defend because there are no eyewitnesses to a skating accident to confirm or deny the skater’s version of events. Thus, roller rink operators should install surveillance cameras and hire a sufficient number of floor supervisors so there is a greater likelihood of having a videotape or eyewitness account of the accident.  Once a case is filed, rink operators can also improve their ability to defend lawsuits by retaining an expert to analyze the skater’s version of the accident.

            By retaining an expert with mechanical engineering expertise and/or experience analyzing roller skating accidents, causation can be challenged, focusing upon whether the skater fell as a result of a skate surface defect, a defective roller skate or as a result of the skater’s own imbalance while skating.  An expert can conduct a site inspection on the rink and test the skates worn at the time of the skater’s fall.  An expert can also perform testing to demonstrate that the skating surface was not unsafe and was not a factor in the skater’s fall.  Thus, roller rink owners and operators can successfully defend fall down claims by ruling out the skater’s theory of liability and establishing that the fall occurred as a result of the skater’s own failure to maintain balance while skating.