Spring and summer are coming, and there’s no doubt the bounce houses will be coming out for school festivals and birthday parties. They are a favorite among party throwers for their ability to wear out a bunch of kids relatively inexpensively. But be very careful when choosing a company that supplies inflatables. If your chosen supplier is not fully compliant with state law, not only will you be on the front line for liability purposes if anyone gets hurt, you could possibly be exposed to Class B misdemeanor penalties.
Bounce houses are regulated as “amusement rides” by the Texas Occupations Code. As such, their operators are subject to certification requirements that consist of minimum insurance levels and annual inspections of each inflatable.
Texas requires each operator to have minimum insurance coverage of $1 million per occurrence combined single limit (bodily injury plus property damage). In addition, the operator’s insurer must annually inspect each ride for stress-related and wear-related damage of the critical parts of a ride that the manufacturer determines are reasonably subject to failure through normal use and could cause injury as a result (think: tie-down straps). Manufacturers and state regulations may identify additional inspection points.
Certification of an acceptable inspection and a copy of valid insurance coverage must be filed with the state prior to July 1 each year in order for a company to operate inflatables. Each “ride” will receive a certification sticker showing its fitness to operate.
When choosing a rental shop for your next party:
• Look for a physical office. This signifies stability and a commitment to long-term business measures such as those required to be accountable to the state.
• Ask to see evidence of the company’s active insurance coverage; confirm it meets state requirements.
• Ask when the last safety inspection was. Better yet, ask for the serial number of the ride you want to rent, and check for its annual certification sticker on the state website: https://www.tdi.texas.gov/commercial/lcamcurrentsticker.html.
• Check for excessive or concerning injury reports, which must be filed when a child is hurt (injury reports are not required for minor first-aid injuries like bumps and bruises): https://www.tdi.texas.gov/commercial/lcamqtrinjury.html.
• Don’t make price your determining factor. Many low-cost operators can offer lower prices because they dodge state requirements.
Be careful out there, and happy bouncing!
Kendra Rey is an attorney at Hammerle Finley Law Firm.