Wednesday, July 26th saw a tragedy at the Ohio State Fair when one person was killed and 7 were injured on the “Fire Ball” spinning ride. Amateur video of the accident shows the seating area literally collapsing and tearing apart while the spinning pendulum ride was in mid-swing. This launched riders into the air, where many landed – some on their backs. One rider was killed, and seven others were injured. Two of the seven were critically injured.
At this point, we do not know if any of the riders will be suing for their injuries. The national amusement park and fair injury attorneys at Reiff and Bily work across the country to help riders like these recover compensation for their injuries. There are various parties that may be responsible for the ride’s collapse, but we will not speculate who is actually at fault. Instead, our attorneys have looked at the case and examined the potential lawsuits, which parties might be sued, and where those lawsuits might happen.
If you or a loved one was injured in an amusement park ride, suing in a court that is convenient for the victim is one of the most important aspects of the case. Whether you’re suing in federal or state court, you want to keep the case close to home to avoid the need to travel long distances, especially if you’re facing serious injuries. Contact Reiff and Bily today if you were the victim of an accident at a fair, festival, or amusement park for a free consultation on your case.
Potential Parties for Amusement Injury Lawsuits
When you are injured in an accident, you could potentially sue multiple parties. Ultimately, only the parties that did something wrong can be held liable for your injuries. The following are all of the parties involved in setting up and running this ride at the Ohio State Fair, and any of them could be potential targets for a lawsuit in these cases (potential “defendants”):
Owners of the Fair/Festival
The accident took place in Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio State Fair. The Fair runs out of the Ohio Expo Center and surrounding buildings, stages, and community centers across Columbus. The State Fair itself is run by the Ohio State Fair Commissioners, through the Ohio Expositions Commission. This board of 14 members for 2017 was appointed by Governor Kasich. Ultimately, the Commission oversees the grounds, rides, and events that take place at the Fair, and they are one potential party the victims could sue. They are also part of the Government of the State of Ohio.
Ride Owners and Operators
The ride at the State Fair was under contract from a New Jersey company called Amusements of America. This Tennent, New Jersey company’s website advertises amusement ride services and rentals across the country, and specifically mentions working in Ohio. Their contract with the Ohio State Fair, and their status as the provider and operator of the ride might make them a target of an injury lawsuit.
The manufacturer of the “Fire Ball” ride could also, ultimately be held responsible for the injuries. If the ride was improperly manufactured, they could be on the hook for injuries. The company that made this ride was called KMG, and operates out of the Netherlands.
Lastly, the Ohio state inspectors who investigated the rides may also be liable. If they did not run proper checks, they could be on the hook for any injuries caused by safety issues they overlooked. Riders rely on their statements about safety, and incorrect assurances that rides are safe could lead to injuries.
Suing where Your Accident Occurred
Since the victims in this case were injured in Ohio, they can likely sue in Ohio State Court for their injuries. The Ohio State Fair was run by the Ohio government, inspected by Ohio inspectors, operated by a New Jersey company under contract in Ohio, and sold by a Dutch company for use in Ohio. Various cases may allow these lawsuits to happen in state court in Ohio. Since Ohio is an extremely convenient location for the victims, this may be their best choice if they can legally call each defendant into this court.
Suing Residents of the Same State
Under Ohio laws, an accident that occurred in Ohio is eligible to be heard in Ohio State Court. One of the main issues in a field of law called “civil procedure” is the issue of “jurisdiction.” This is the question of whether a court has power over a type of issue, a specific occurrence, or a person. If they do, they are said to have “jurisdiction,” and that lawsuit and defendant can be addressed before that court.
An Ohio State Court could have jurisdiction over this accident itself, and over many of the parties. When an accident occurs in a state, that is enough to give the state’s courts jurisdiction over the issue. Additionally, anyone who lives in the state can be called into court in that state. This means that the Ohio courts would have jurisdiction over the Ohio State Fair Commission, Ohio inspectors, and the victims (all residents of Ohio).
Suing Companies from Other States
The Ohio courts also likely have jurisdiction over Amusements of America and KMG. A Supreme Court case called International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945) is a classic case dealing with jurisdiction. That case held that a company can be sued in any state where it has sufficient “minimum contacts.” This means that a company can be brought to court in a state where it does business, has offices or stores, makes contracts, or otherwise works within the state. Since Amusements of America had a contract with the Ohio State Fair, has previously done business in Ohio, and holds itself out to do business in Ohio, an Ohio court likely has jurisdiction over the company for accidents in Ohio.
KMG may be a Dutch company, but it could also be eligible for suit in Ohio. Another Supreme Court case called Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court (1987) laid down the rules for suing foreign manufacturers. In that case, the court decided that a foreign corporation was aware that its products could end up in the “stream of commerce” in the state in question. That was enough for the Court to allow that state to have jurisdiction over a case dealing with the manufacturer’s defective product. Similarly, if KMG knew that its products may make their way into Ohio, US law might allow these Ohio State Fair victims to sue KMG in Ohio.
You can Sue a Company at its Headquarters, and Beyond
Since US jurisdiction laws always allow you to sue in a state where the defendant is “at home,” you can generally sue a company in the state of incorporation or the state where its headquarters are located. You may also sue a foreign company in a state where it sells its products.
Many companies “incorporate” (a legal process to create a corporation) themselves in Delaware or other states with friendly business laws. This means that Delaware often has jurisdiction over many cases. If the company’s headquarters is located in another state, that state is also considered the company’s “home” for jurisdiction questions. Since Amusements of America runs out of offices in New Jersey, the victims would likely be able to bring their lawsuit in New Jersey, if they wanted to.
Because KMG sold its ride directly to Amusements of America, it may also be eligible for suit in New Jersey. This would fall under the same Asahi rule mentioned above, since KMG put its product into the “stream of commerce” in New Jersey by selling the “Fire Ball” to Amusements of America.
Suing in Federal Court
This case may also be eligible to be heard in federal court. Any time a resident of one state sues the resident of another state, they may take their case to federal court instead of state court (if the case is worth at least $75,000). This case is based on “diversity” – the fact that each side has residents of different states. If the victims sue the State of Ohio itself (the Ohio Fair Commission), they may also take the case to federal court under another rule.
In federal court, the lawsuit still needs to go to a particular courthouse. Deciding which court – whether it be the US District Court of the Southern District of Ohio (covering the Columbus area) or the US District Court of New Jersey – depends on the same basic rules as jurisdiction. The federal location question is called “venue” instead of “jurisdiction.”
One potential problem with suing in federal court is the issue of “complete diversity.” When you sue someone in federal court, everyone on the other side of the case must be a resident of another state (or a foreign country). If the victims (Ohio residents) want to sue Ohio inspectors (also Ohio residents), they would have Ohioans on each side of the case and it may be blocked from federal court. If they only sue the New Jersey operators and the Dutch manufacturer, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Suing Foreign Ride Manufacturers
If KMG, the ride manufacturer, was responsible for the injuries, they may be eligible for lawsuit in a few places. KMG has recently reacted to the Ohio State Fair accident by warning customers and ride operators to stop using a few of its rides, including ones similar to the Fire Ball. This is by no means an admission of fault, but is a good indicator that they may become involved in legal trouble over this case.
First, the Ohio victims could always sue KMG in the Netherlands – if they wanted to. The cost of flying halfway across the world and bringing a lawyer with you is very high. This is likely too much of a burden.
Instead, since KMG is a resident of another country, they could bring them into federal court. Deciding which specific courthouse would hear the case runs into the same problems as jurisdiction. Whether the victims were to sue in federal or state court, the Asahi case will be one of the biggest deciding factors in whether the court is allowed to hear the case.
Because KMG sold its ride to Amusements of America, not to the riders in Ohio, there is a chance Ohio might not have jurisdiction over KMG. Usually, under Asahi, you can sue a company that put its product into the “stream of commerce” in that state. However, the Supreme Court limited this rule in the 2011 case McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro. In that case, a British manufacturer was being sued in New Jersey for a defective product. The court held that, because the foreign company targeted the United States as a whole, and not New Jersey in particular, it could not be sued in New Jersey.
McIntyre parallels the Ohio case quite closely. If the ride manufacturer tried to sell rides to the United States as a whole, but not to New Jersey in particular (or to Ohio in particular), then they may not be eligible for suit in those states. A Dutch company like KMG may not even know where New Jersey or Ohio are located. Additionally, since KMG actually sold the ride to a company in New Jersey, they may not be eligible for a lawsuit in Ohio. Their ride could be said to be in the “stream of commerce” in New Jersey, but not in Ohio. However, Amusements of America advertises on their website that they set up rides across the country – including in Ohio. That may be enough to make KMG aware that they were putting their ride into the “stream of commerce” in Ohio and other states.
Fair and Festival Ride Injury Attorneys
The specifics of a case like this are beyond what an everyday American is expected to understand. That is why amusement park injury attorneys like Reiff and Bily practice across the country. Helping injured victims get compensation for their injuries is our primary goal.
Whenever you’ve been injured, we will look at all of the potentially at-fault parties. We will analyze case law, like we’ve done above, and determine the best strategy for your lawsuit. Call (800) 861-6708 today for a free consultation on your amusement park accident case. Our attorneys will help you understand what court can hear your lawsuit, and what compensation you might be entitled to.