Amusement Park Premises Liability Issues
There’s nothing amusing about the types of accidents that occur at amusement parks. As the quest for the latest, greatest, tallest, and fastest adrenaline-pumping experience produces rides that look like something out of a sci-fi movie, the risks are increasing, too. Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio recently released a study showing that over 70% of injuries to children involving amusement park rides happen during the summer months.
Their study reviewed injuries sustained on rollercoasters, Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and bumper cars. The types of injuries included head and neck damage as well as injuries to the face, arms, and legs. The most common soft tissue injuries included ligament, muscle, and tendon damage. Only a very small percent of the injuries were serious.
In Southern California, we have some pretty great amusement parks right in our backyard. We also have our share of amusement park injuries here in SoCal. What causes these injuries? Are amusement parks truly unsafe? Well, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) looked into that issue. Their findings indicate that… it depends. While injuries from rides that required treatment in emergency rooms rose about 87% over the last five years, this trend had multiple causes. Sometimes it’s mechanical failure, other times the cause is a design defect. Operator behavior is responsible for some of the injuries and some are even caused by consumer behavior.
When the injuries are caused by defect or operator behavior, the park or the operator can be held liable for the victims’ damages. Victims can be compensated for items such as medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, physical therapy, permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In the worst case scenario, the families of deceased victims may file a wrongful death claim for damages such as lost future income, medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of love and companionship.
Some of these accidents are worst case, too. Take, for instance, 52-year-old Rosa Ayala-Goana who fell from a rollercoaster at the Arlington, Texas Six Flags amusement park in July of this year. Witnesses said Rosa seemed concerned just before the 14-story Iron Rattler rollercoaster took off. Her concern centered on a suspicion that the safety bar wasn’t completely engaged. Rosa later fell from the rollercoaster suffering many traumatic injuries before dying as a result of the fall.
Records show that 14 injuries involving the Iron Rattler were reported in the last five years. Up until Rosa’s death, the most serious injuries were concussion and muscle strains from being bounced around on the ride. Three injuries were trip and falls on the steps to the ride. Officials shut down the Iron Rattler pending an investigation. The current theory is that Rosa either slipped out from a locked safety bar or that the safety bar disengaged. Either way, Rosa’s family may have a claim against the park as the owner has a duty to provide a safe environment and that duty was obviously breached.