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Watertown sued over boy’s injuries at Thompson Park sledding hill

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The father of a boy who broke both legs when he struck a frozen hay bale while sledding at Thompson Park has filed suit against the city of Watertown over the incident.

Dwayne J. Rumfelt, 130 Francis St., filed state Supreme Court action Friday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office on behalf of his son, Jorlan N., who was 6 years old when he suffered the injuries Dec. 29.

According to court documents, the city, which owns the park, was negligent by placing hay bales at the bottom of the popular sledding hill. The bales were supposed to serve as a cushion to prevent sledders from hitting a stone wall or trees, but the suit claims that when moisture inside the bales froze, they became “concrete-like barriers.”

Jorlan, a first-grader at the time, “violently collided” with one of the bales, according to the suit, and suffered two broken femurs, requiring surgery. In addition to the child’s pain and suffering, the suit claims the accident caused the family to incur unspecified medical expenses.

It is claimed that the bales, once frozen, “became an instrument of harm” and that the city was negligent in putting an artificial or man-made barrier in the sledding area, “creating an unreasonable and foreseeable danger” to users of the hill. The suit alleges that the city had a duty to maintain the sledding area “in a good and safe condition.”

The suit does not specify an amount sought in damages. The family is represented by Syracuse attorney Edward J. Smith.

After the city learned that Jorlan and another youth had been injured while sledding, it removed the hay bales and replaced them with mesh ski fencing.

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