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Slippin’ and a slidin’ – not always fun

Many children of the 1960s and 70s have fond memories of the Slip ‘N Slide, manufactured by Wham-O®. The Slip ‘N Slide was first introduced in 1961 as a children’s toy. The toy is a long sheet of thin plastic, flanked lengthwise on one side by a heat-sealed tubular fold. The tube can be attached to any ordinary garden hose. Water runs through the tube and out small perforations, spraying onto the sliding surface. The Slip ‘N Slide then becomes very slippery, enabling users to dive onto the plastic head first and slide the length of the sheet. While the toy was intended for use by children only, many adults also took pleasure in sliding. Some of them suffered significant injuries.

Wham-O® discontinued the product in the 1970s after three people broke their necks. But then in 1982, a new company purchased Wham-O® and its entire product line and reintroduced the Slip ‘N Slide. Sure enough, more people broke their necks, suffering quadriplegia and paraplegia.

Lawsuits brought the danger of the Slip ‘N Slide to public attention, and as a result the company stopped making the product, recalled products from retail shelves, and issued a safety alert. So, why do these Slip ‘N Slides keep re-appearing? We see them on the shelves at Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us®. Not only that, but Slip ‘N Slide has evolved from a simple single rider slide into double and triple rider slides with new water effects.  Millions of dollars are made from the sale of these products.

One can only surmise that these products went back on the market because the profits generated from the sale of these toys significantly outweigh the risk of a few lawsuits. In an attempt to protect themselves from liability, the manufacturer warns that only children use the toy due to the risk of back and neck injuries when teenagers and adults use it. Indeed, should you purchase a Slip N’ Slide, you will notice safety warnings are slathered all around the box in large, bold print. Do these warnings shield the manufacturer from liability? Not necessarily, but they do give the manufacturer the opportunity to argue that the injured party was negligent in his/her use of the product, thereby potentially lessening the amount of any award or settlement.

If you do own a Slip ‘N Slide, we would recommend that you make sure that no teenagers or adults use it and make sure that children are using it correctly. Also remember that should a person use a Slip ‘N Slide on your property and become injured, you could also be personally liable for their injuries.


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