BC Supreme Court – Nothing Negligent About Kids Playing "Grounders"
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registy, addressing whether a variation of tag called ‘grounders’ played by kids at school was negligent. In short the Court held it was not.
In today’s case (Thompson v. Corporation of the District of Saanich) the Plaintiff was playing a game called ‘grounders’ with other kids aged 8-11 at a middle school day camp during recess when she fell fell from a piece of playground equipment and struck her head. She sued for damages arguing the school was negligent in allowing kids to play this game. The court dismissed the claim finding this was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Baird provided the following reasons:
4] The program assistant who was supervising the playground at the material time knew that the plaintiff and her young peers were playing grounders and did not stop them. Indeed, the evidence suggests that he may well have participated in the game for a time. He deposed in evidence that he had played and enjoyed the game himself as a child and considered it to be perfectly harmless. He described the rules as follows:
Grounders is a version of tag in which one child is “it” and the other children climb on to the playground structure. The child who is “it” attempts to “tag” the children on the playground structure from the ground. The children on the structure move around to avoid being tagged. If the child who is “it” decides to climb on to the playground structure they have to close their eyes. The other children on the playground structure never close their eyes and this gives them a significant advantage. If the child who is “it” opens their eyes while on the playground structure the other children yell “broken dishes, broken dishes.” If a child that was not “it” climbed off the playground structure the child who was “it” could yell “grounders” and then the other child who was on the ground would become “it”.
 The evidence submitted on this hearing establishes, and my own experiences both as a child and a parent confirm, that grounders and games like it involving pursuit and evasion are commonly played by children, who enjoy them — as did the plaintiff, whose evidence on this point was clear — because they are exciting and fun. I am prepared to take notice of the fact that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, no mischief comes to anyone from such innocent pleasures.
 Specifically, I find that there is nothing inherently dangerous about grounders such that special training or instruction is required to play it or to superintend children of the plaintiff’s age and experience who choose to do so. I must reject the argument advanced by the plaintiff that it was the sort of activity that required parental consent or approval in advance. There is no doubt that games like grounders involve a small degree of risk, as do all children’s outdoor activities involving running, jumping, climbing, tagging, chasing, dodging, feinting, and so on. But judging the matter by the objective measure of the reasonably careful and prudent parent, I conclude that the risk of harm inherent in such games is sufficiently remote that to permit children to play them is not unreasonable.
 The evidence satisfies me, furthermore, that the plaintiff and her peers were adequately supervised during their play time. I repeat that the District’s duty to the plaintiff did not include the removal of every possible danger that might arise while she was in the care of its employees, but was only to protect her from unreasonable risk of harm. A supervisor was close at hand minding the children throughout the recess. There was nothing to suggest that he was doing so other than diligently and conscientiously. He was standing on the playground equipment near to the plaintiff at a vantage that gave him a good view of the game and the state of play. There was no evidence that any of the children were behaving recklessly or aggressively or that there was anything unpleasant, malevolent or hazardous about their manner of interaction. The plaintiff was not pushed or touched. She said quite simply that she was moving backwards away from the child who was “it” and lost her footing.
 I sympathise strongly with the plaintiff and her family. What little I was told about the consequences of this accident suggested that the plaintiff’s injuries were not trivial. But I am afraid that the consequences of the plaintiff’s misadventure cannot transform the District into a no-fault insurer, and perfection is not the standard of care to be discharged by its employees when minding school-aged children.