Indoor trampoline giant hit by devastating injuries, law suits
AN indoor trampolining brand, established by a Western Sydney truckie who bounced his way into a multimillion-dollar fortune, is headed for a rough landing as customers with devastating injuries launch massive lawsuits.
Flip Out trampoline founder Brent Grundy, 37, from Penrith went from broke to an estimated worth of $38 million in just five years by aggressively franchising his bouncing business model of trampolines and foam pits for aerial stunts all over the world.
Three weeks ago Mr Grundy sold Flip Out Australia to former Canberra Raiders league player Steven Stone for an undisclosed sum.
However, the Flip Out brand is under attack with mounting complaints from customers in Australia and the United Kingdom of serious injuries ranging from broken bones and severe facial lacerations to fractured spines and paralysis.
Wollongong bricklayer Frankie James Kuzba, 22, is the latest person to sue after he dived into a foam pit, breaking his neck in four places at Flip Out, Warrawong on April 17, 2015, causing permanent paralysis and leaving him unable to work.
His action follows that of father-of-two Craig Middleton, who settled out of court after he broke his neck and was paralysed doing a forward flip off a trampoline into a foam pit at his daughter's birthday party at the now closed Charmhaven centre on the Central Coast.
And the actions extend to the UK, which now has 25 Flip Out branches.
Among those complainants are two women, aged 29 and 26, who broke their spines when they jumped off a 4m-high tower into a foam pit at a Flip Out in the historic city of Chester in the northwest of England.
In a separate incident at the same centre, a mother-of-four claims to have had her top lip torn from her face when she accidentally bounced into a wall.
However, Flip Out vigorously defended its safety record in a statement to The Daily Telegraph.
As the "world's largest recreational trampoline park" it said, Flip Out has "thousands of guests" visit its facilities every day.
"We treat safety very seriously and make every endeavour to ensure our guests have a safe and enjoyable time at all of our facilities," the statement read. "We do note that given the very nature of the activity it is important for all guests to appreciate that it is an activity in which injury can occur and accordingly we have clear guidelines for guests to follow when visiting our facilities."
Mr Kuzba, who is being represented by law firm Slater and Gordon, believes Flip Out has a serious case to answer.
He said he signed a waiver, as all customers do when they enter Flip Out facilities.
Inside the centre he then sought advice from an attendant before diving into the foam pit. Mr Kuzba said he jumped "real high" and plunged into the foam, hitting the concrete below.
"I went straight through and hit my head … 96kg straight onto my head," he said. "I heard my neck crunch and my ears were ringing real loud - at first I thought I had died. I tried to yell out to my friends but I could barely talk."
Mr Kuzba spent 280 days recovering in hospital and can no longer move any part of his body below his shoulders.
"My life is nothing now, it's gone, I can't do nothing."
In a statement Flip Out said it could not comment on individual cases for legal reasons. The statement went on to say that, "we strive to ensure all guests enjoy their time at Flip Out and handle claims and complaints within strict guidelines required by law".
Mr Kuzba's case will return to court next month.
According to WorkSafe NSW there are no specific safety guidelines for trampolining centres like Flip Out's.
They fall under the general workplace health and safety regulations which apply to all businesses and workplaces - when customers enter they sign a waiver where they accept responsibility for any injury sustained while using the equipment. This means that if they are seriously injured their only avenue is to pursue a personal injury claim through civil courts.
"While injuries from recreational use of trampolines is a public safety matter, work health and safety obligations require that trampoline businesses ensure they have safe systems in place to prevent injuries to employees and others at the workplace," a SafeWork NSW spokesman said.