TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, December 1, 2006

Adventures in Manuals

You: the happy owner of a newly-purchased used Deluxe Sizzler carnival ride:


"Hooray!" you think.  "It's got a manual!  I'll know what sort of restrictions to put on it.  Page 1 tells you this:


"Okay, so, 11 or younger 'must' be accompanied by an adult.  Get that sign made!" you think.  Oh, wait, though, on the very next page, there's this:


"Huh?  The average 11 year old is 57 inches tall or so."

Just about a year ago, a 55-inch-tall 9-year-old rode a Deluxe Sizzler at a fair in Austin, Texas, without an adult (she in fact rode with her brother, also under 52").  She apparently attempted to shift herself to avoid smashing her brother.  She was thrown from the ride and died.  The ride operator followed the height restrictions; no Sizzler operator to my knowledge attempts to follow the age suggestions.

The CPSC report: Download cpsc_report.pdf

Might be a good case to explore in either a products or torts class.

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What possible difference can it make what the manufacturer writes about the age in the manual, if (as you note) ride operators don't enforce age restrictions anyway? That all seems to be a red herring. Your real complaint, it seems to me, is that the height limit is too low.

Posted by: David Nieporent | Jan 16, 2007 8:05:16 PM

The age restriction in the manual seems relevant for two reasons.

First, even if a ride operator can't enforce it, posting an age suggestion would presumably get some parents to keep their too-young kids off.

Second, it provides some useful information about what the manufacturer believed was an appropriate age for the ride, giving us evidence that the height restriction is, indeed, too low.

(It also provides a suggestion of how ride operators could reasonbly be confused as to what they're supposed to do with the ride and who they should be letting on.)

My complaint probably is mostly with the height restriction, but I think more information for parents would be useful as well. Heck, better restraints would be on the list too.

Posted by: Bill Childs | Jan 17, 2007 3:46:51 AM

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