Bluffton parents sue school district over playground accident

An accident on a playground slide could affect the ability of a 6-year-old boy to earn a living.

So says a lawsuit filed against the Beaufort County School District.

Patricia and Ben Stott are suing the district for negligence after their son, then 6, fell off a slide at Bluffton Elementary School in 2008.

They claim the district failed to protect their son from danger and adequately supervise the playground, according to documents filed Nov. 5 in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas.

The suit says the boy was sent to the playground with about 120 other kindergarten and first-grade students on Nov. 24, 2008, under the supervision of three teachers or teaching assistants.

He was sliding down a slide when he noticed a puddle at the bottom. He tried to avoid it by climbing over the side rail, according to the suit.

A student who had followed him down the slide then ran into him, sending him head-first off the slide. He broke his fall with his arms, according to the suit.

The child had fractures and other serious injuries to his right arm that required medical treatment costing more than $41,000, including surgeries and braces, according to the lawsuit. It also says he suffered mental anguish and emotional distress in addition to physical pain and injury.

The lawsuit claims his parents suffered economic damages that include the lost earnings capacity of the boy and the loss of contribution to the household by him, as well as medical bills and their own lost wages.

J. Olin McDougall, the Stotts' lawyer, declined comment on the lawsuit.

Jennifer Staton, the school district's risk manager, said the district had not yet been served with the lawsuit and could not respond to specific allegations. However, she said the district keeps its playgrounds safe.

For instance, she said the district began replacing wood chip mulch in 2003 with safer rubber surfaces designed for the fall height of the equipment. Staton said the maintenance department performs regular playground inspections, and teachers are taught how to appropriately supervise a playground.