Earlier this month, we wrote about a derailment accident which trapped dozens and injured four on the Ninja roller coaster ride at Southern California’s Six Flags Magic Mountain. Now, two victims who suffered head injuries are filing a lawsuit against Six Flags, alleging that the park permitted a ride that was “dangerous, defective, hazardous and unsafe.”
Throughout the United States, traveling carnivals are a beloved summer staple for children and adults alike. But if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, you may want to think twice about where you go to find it. Unlike their permanent, fixed-location counterparts, mobile fairs are not subject to federal inspections – which means the potential for catastrophic injury is an ever-present risk. If the government isn’t regulating carnival rides, who is?
Thanks in no small part to the blockbuster film, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” flume ride is a hugely popular attraction. But in light of a recent incident, that popularity may be about to temporarily decline. This week, an unfortunate passenger from the U.K. was injured on the ride at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, losing the tips of two fingers in an amusement park accident.
The World’s Tallest Water Slide is Coming to Schlitterbahn: Kansas City to Welcome the “Crazy” Verruckt
No one goes to an amusement park to have a quiet, relaxing day: patrons arrive in hordes expecting excitement and adrenaline. But even the world’s most avid thrill-seekers may think twice before trying out the Verruckt. Verruckt translates to “insane” or “crazy” in German, and with a record-smashing peak height of 168 feet, it’s easy to see why. Safety testing on the long-anticipated ride has finally been completed, and at last, the Schlitterbahn Park in Kansas City is scheduled to debut the world’s tallest water slide this Thursday.
Roller coasters are hailed as the largest, wildest, and most thrilling rides amusement parks have to offer. But in the case of the Ninja Coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California, some two dozen riders got more than they bargained for after a tree branch caused the ride to malfunction. Four unlucky passengers suffered minor injuries, and a total of 22 riders were stranded on the stalled coaster for hours while maintenance workers and firefighters worked to rescue the victims. How did a single tree branch wreak such havoc on a massive roller coaster, and what is being done about it?
Following a knee injury that occurred almost 2 years previously, a Palisades Park, New Jersey couple has filed a lawsuit against Sesame Place of Langhorne, Pennsylvania. The suit was filed in federal court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The plaintiff seeks more than $150,000 in damages stemming from her alleged injury on the Splash Castle ride.
How did the Plaintiff’s Injury Occur?
Plaintiffs Hyobin Kim and Ho Young Lee visited the Sesame Place amusement park on the 4th of July in 2012. They brought their 18-month-old son to the park to enjoy a day in the sun and water. One of the attractions the family rode on was the Count’s Splash Castle. The Splash Castle is essentially a multi-level aquatic jungle gym for young children. Sesame lace’s website describes the attraction as “feature[ing] over ninety play elements (that’s a lot to count!), including a 1,000-gallon 8-ft. tipping bucket, multiple water slides, valves, levers, water curtains, bridges, hydro blasters, bubbler jets, bongos, hose jets, water wheels and much more.”
Unfortunately according to plaintiff’s complaint, the water slide on the Count’s Splash Castle is believed to have caused the serious injury to the plaintiff’s knee. Kim claims that she rode down the waterslide with her infant son. When she reached the bottom of the slide she attempted to stand. However in doing so she slipped and fell. Kim claims that during and due to her fall, she hit or scraped her knee on a piece of metal or hard plastic that secured protective padding. This dangerous condition allegedly sliced plaintiff’s knee leaving a 10cm incision. Plaintiff states that the injury exposed connective tissue in her knee and has required extensive corrective procedures.
What Types of Damages can a Plaintiff Recover?
Plaintiff’s complaint claims “She has suffered and will in the future continue to suffer pain, mental anguish, humiliation, loss of sense of self worth and ‘well being’, the ability to engage in her normal activities and inability to pursue the normal and ordinary pleasures of life.” Let us take a moment to unpack this statement and better understand the types of damages that can be available in a personal injury or premises liability matter.
Generally speaking for a personal injury matter, damages can be divided into two broad categories: Compensatory damages and punitive damages. As its name suggests, compensatory damages are intended to “make you whole” for the damages and injuries you have suffered. Types of compensatory damages can include lost wages, pain and suffering, medical and hospital bills, and any many other calculable damages. Those who are young, with a high earning capacity or those who suffer particularly serious injuries typically receive the greatest amount of compensatory damages. However, losses that are speculative, that is they are expected to occur but have yet to occur, are generally not recoverable.
In contrast, punitive damages are not intended to compensate, but rather to punish wrong-doers and deter similar actions in the future. Punitive damages are generally reserved for situations where wrongful conduct was willful, wanton, or with reckless disregard to human life.
If you have been injured at an amusement park like Sesame Place, an experienced personal injury lawyer can increase your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys handle each step of the litigation process so that you can focus on your recovery. To schedule a free and confidential consultation contact Reiff & Bily by calling 1-800-861-6708 or contact us online.
Once widely beloved, the SeaWorld franchise has received plenty of negative scrutiny in recent years. The park’s treatment of animals and trainers alike has repeatedly come under fire, but on this occasion, it wasn’t a staff member or sea creature who fell victim to negligence. This June, attorneys Robert Szostak and Raymond Bily of the Pennsylvania personal injury firm of Reiff & Bily obtained a $995,200 award for SeaWorld patron Onix I. Agosto Jr. after the victim sustained a devastating ankle injury in a Sesame Place water slide accident.
As the cold winter weather begins to fade into the warmth of spring and summer, more and more Americans take to seasonal outdoor activities. One of the most popular warm-weather American pastimes is visiting amusement parks and water parks. While amusement parks and water parks offer up thrills, chills, and a way to beat the heat, they can also be extremely dangerous to patrons if the rides are not supervised by competent staff members. Unfortunately, poor staffing is a widespread problem among America’s amusement parks.
Many parks operate with too few staff members, personnel who are under-trained, or both. Too often, this bare-minimum approach to staffing leads to devastating accidents. Amusement park rides and their occupants must be carefully checked and monitored during loading and unloading to ensure passenger safety; but in many cases, this is simply not the case. In order to keep costs low and profits high, parks frequently resort to making short-term hires of high school and college students for the minimum wage. Many of New Jersey’s popular seashore parks cheaply hire seasonal foreign exchange students, many of whom simply lack the English language proficiency necessary to keep park visitors safe on rides.
If you or someone you love was injured in an amusement park accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, suffering, and financial hardship.
To arrange a free and completely confidential legal consultation with an experienced amusement park accident lawyer, call today at (800) 861-6708. We have recovered multiple multimillion dollar awards, and have more than 34 years of experience working with thousands of clients.
Amusement Park Ride Operators Cause Death and Injury
Ride operators have a great responsibility for human life. Operators are expected to oversee passenger safety, but oftentimes these young and inexperienced park employees lack the necessary maturity and technical training. Between a lack of experience and a lax safety climate, ride operators frequently disregard critical safety measures. For example, they may allow children who are too small onto rides, or allow children to ride by themselves when they should be accompanied. They may also fail to pay attention to the duration of a ride, which can be dangerous due to the fact that many rides operate on a continuous loop and track.
Distraction is another major problem. A distracted ride operator can be as dangerous as a distracted driver – and in many of the cases our amusement park accident firm has investigated, evidence has determined operator distraction was a key factor in deaths and injuries. Teenaged ride supervisors are frequently distracted by text messaging or idle gossip with coworkers, and may even be working under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because many amusement parks do not bother to conduct employee drug testing, these problems often go unchecked until an accident hurts or kills an innocent person.
To make the situation worse, such threats are not restricted to the peak park months. The off-season poses its own set of dangers from a ride supervision standpoint. During the fall and spring, just before and after the prime months for attendance, ride operators are frequently hired on a temporary basis and are often unfamiliar with the machines they are supposed to be monitoring.
Amusement Park Accidents Caused by Poor Ride Supervision
In the summer of 2013, a ride operator employed by Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, New Jersey was fired after a 4-year-old girl was injured at the load and unload position. Investigation following the accident showed that the ride suffered from no mechanical defects: the girl’s injuries were a direct result of substandard operational procedures. Jeffrey Reiff has also prosecuted a case involving an 11-year-old girl who was tragically killed after falling from a Ferris wheel ride in Wildwood, New Jersey. A subsequent report by the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs recommended prohibiting children from riding Ferris wheels unaccompanied.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2006 alone, roughly 8,800 people were injured in amusement park accidents. Approximately half of all ride injuries were sustained by children, with about 18% of injuries specifically affecting 10- to 14-year-olds. Between 1987 and 2000, a total of 51 people were killed in accidents. Many of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the riders were properly measured for height and safely secured into the ride.
Wrongful death and personal injury at amusement parks are simply not an acceptable “cost of doing business.” Until the federal and state governments strengthen their inspection and violation enforcement programs, it will be left to trial lawyers to protect the rights of people – after they have already been injured.
Jeffrey M. Reiff is an experienced amusement park accident attorney who regularly publishes and lectures about amusement park accidents. Email him at email@example.com, or call (800) 861-6708 right away.
Butch Browning, a Louisiana fire marshal reprimanded for several serious oversights by a 2012 state inspector general’s report, admitted last November to all of his offenses but one: approving a defective amusement park ride. Thanks to this approval, two teenagers, a brother and sister, were thrown from the ride and seriously injured—despite the fact that Browning had been warned about the problem that very night. The accident apparently didn’t faze him. After the state of Louisiana recently paid out $180,000 to the family, all Browning had to say was, “I can’t affect what happens in court settlements and conversations between lawyers.” To him, it was evidently no big deal that children’s lives had been imperiled and a family had been traumatized.
The two teens, a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year old boy, were thrown from a ride called “the Zipper” at a school carnival in Greensburg, Louisiana. As they tried to get off the ride, they were propelled 15 feet into the air, landing on the pavement. Needless to say, this caused very serious injury to both. The ride, in fact, was missing two critical parts—a safety switch and a parking brake. But Browning blamed the accident on “operator error,” claiming that the operator “somehow accidentally activated the boom switch at the ride control panel forcing motion of the ride, at the time the riders were exiting their car.”
Soon after the accident occurred, State Police Col. Mike Edmonson exonerated Browning, contending that the fire marshal’s office was only responsible for a spot safety inspection, which does not require checking the owner’s compliance with manufacturing guidelines. But, the state inspector general’s report of November 13, 2012 disagreed, stating that the fire marshal was indeed responsible for overseeing the inspection of amusement park rides, and that it had mishandled the inspection process. One of Browning’s own investigators, Donald Carter, claims that he warned Browning about the danger, but was told to keep this fact out of his investigative report. And a state inspector, Byron Wade, it turns out, approved the ride’s safety stops—when they had been not only modified, but removed.
Fortunately, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a watchdog organization that targets corruption in New Orleans, alerted the Inspector General. Rafael Goyeneche, the president of this commission, claimed that three of the employees of Mac’s Carnivals and Attractions expressed the belief that the accident wouldn’t have occurred if the inspection had been properly handled.
It is clear that the state of Louisiana was negligent in the handling of this case. It is also clear that it went to great lengths to avoid culpability for its extreme negligence. The question is why any person or organization would choose to condone and cover up its total disregard for the safety of park-goers—and, most importantly, children. This is more than a legal issue of liability; it is a moral and ethical issue.
Unfortunately, this type of indifference about the safety of amusement park rides is typical. Most officials simply don’t take the issue of amusement park safety very seriously. Three factors—sorely inadequate federal oversight, a powerful amusement lobby, and a common belief that fun can’t be dangerous—have contributed to a generalized lethargy about the parks that millions of Americans patronize every year. Even when children are killed on amusement park rides, the public shows an odd indifference. The news dies down within days of being reported, and people forget.
It is time for the public to wake up to the dangers of the amusement world. Anything that threatens children’s lives is serious, whether it be guns or ferris wheels. We must all stand firm against the negligence of amusement park operators and ride manufacturers, the indifference of governmental officials, and the self-interest of amusement park lobbyists. We need to recognize that amusement parks are not solely about fun—and that the amusement industry, like all others, requires regulation and warrants public concern.
Water Slide Accident Results in Permanent Crippling Injuries Rather Than Smiles and Happy “Kodak Moments”
Imagine this scenario, a hot summer day and Dad decides to take his family to a well-known national water park for a day of wet fun and adventure. Soon thereafter, the family boards a 4 person raft and is kicked off by the lifeguard to begin their adventure down the water slide into a funnel. Shortly thereafter, the individuals separate from the raft and enter a splash pool face down barely conscious under the water with serious permanent injuries including but not limited to closed head trauma, spinal fractures, fractured mandible, scarring and lacerations, tibia fractures, closed head trauma, contusions, concussion, and multiple hematomas, fractured ribs and aspiration pneumonia. Furthermore, consider the fact that spinal fractures are commonly known and under reported with various versions of the same water slide attraction.
Of course, the owners, operators, and manufacturers of many water slides and water parks express sympathy for the injuries sustained by victims but they will then no doubt attempt to point the finger at the victim(s) claiming that most accidents are their own fault. They claim that the victims assume the risk or were negligent in some unjustified manner. The safe operation of a water slide adventure requires that lifeguards and operators pay close attention to positioning, weight, and size of all occupants. Water park personnel must know or should have known proper loading and riding positions, weight limitations, and safe spatial barriers. While we recognize that many water slides are participatory in nature and involve some degree of risk, as fair paying guests who utilize equipment must pay heed to proper instruction warnings and supervision. Many water slides are enclosed and dark in order to boost the latest thrill factor. Guests have no way of appreciating the risk or dangers involved before the ride. Frankly, I had the fear of my life on an enclosed water slide and have not been on one since.
Amusement park and water park operators will claim that there was a warning posted at the ride. However, one must ask does the warning accurately portray to patrons what the owner or operator knew or should have known about the dangers or dangerous operating conditions associated with the ride. I assure you most probably not. If so many would not even make an attempt to board the attraction. Obviously the riding experience on a water slide is greatly influenced by weight, size, distribution, body shape, and water accumulation as well as the angle. A higher duty may be imposed on the park owner or operator with regard to addressing clients of extreme shapes or sizes. There is certainly no reason that exists to explain why an entire family visiting a water park in a normal and healthy condition, following all rules and instructions known to them, end up with debilitating permanent injuries if the operators of the attraction followed the rules, regulations, and standards of the manufacturer’s safety instructions and provide a reasonably safe environment and properly trained lifeguards and ride operators.