Friday, May 25, 2007
Long-time readers know that I have an odd side interest in amusement park safety. This week provides two interesting suits -- one new and one on the verge of trial.
- The new suit involves a lawsuit relating to injuries after a woman fell out of a roller coaster in Arkansas. She's quite a large woman and the ride operators (remarkably) allowed her to ride in two seats. This is a long way from recommended behavior for either ride operators or passengers (though one assumes that there are no express warnings about riding in two seats, and I suppose she can probably point out that she is allowed to ride in two seats in planes, etc.). She fell eleven feet and alleges that she has not been able to work since the incident; she's seeking $16 million from the park and the ride importer.
- The old suit (set to start trial next week, I understand) relates to the tragic death of Greyson Yoe, who was electrocuted while waiting in line for bumper cars at a county fair in Ohio. The ride had been inspected the day before, when state inspectors passed it, expressly checking on the inspection form that they had checked the grounding. In fact, they had not and now disavow any knowledge of how to check grounding. (I hear that testimony may suggest that they received more electrical training than they now claim.) The inspectors pleaded guilty a year or two ago to dereliction of duty. Of note, after the criminal charges, the relevant regulatory agency (which in Ohio is the Ohio Department of Agriculture) removed electrical inspection entirely from their inspectors' forms. The Ohio legislature directed the ODA to reverse that decision.
This suit is by Yoe's family and estate against the ODA. (I haven't dug through to find the sovereign immunity decision but I assume there's some sort of exception when there's criminal conduct.)
I wrote about this case in a paper [PDF] I presented to amusement lawyers about criminal charges in amusement accidents and in When Criminal and Tort Law Incentives Run Into Tight Budgets and Regulatory Discretion, 34 CAP. U.L. REV. 581 (2006).