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Friday, September 28, 2007

Ohio Ride Safety Bill Maybe Not Quite Law After All

I've posted before about the case of Greyson Yoe, a young boy electrocuted while standing in line for the bumper cars at a carnival in Ohio.  (I've also written an article about it, available at 34 Cap. U. L. Rev. 581 (2006).)  Here's how I described the case previously:

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.

The civil trial took place earlier this year; the case appears to still be under consideration, two months after post-trial briefing took place.  (It was a bench trial.)

But here's the funny (not so much funny ha-ha) part -- that place where I say that the Ohio legislature reversed the ODA's decision?  Not so much.  At least not to the extent it was pitched.

5 On Your Side dug into inspection reports, court records and hundreds of pages detailing the case and found the much-publicized law not only never got passed, it never even got debated.

It means that life-saving measures like double grounding of all electrical equipment and hefty $5,000 fines never became law.

Former Ohio legislator Tim Cassell sponsored the bill.

He told Regan, "We were basically told by the chairman of the committee that you're not going to make a zoo out of my committee. And I asked him 'What do you mean, make a zoo out of your committee?' And he said, 'you're not going to drag people through here, news cameras in here, and embarrass us.' "

Instead, the law became a tiny footnote tacked onto to the state budget.

Only rides "hooked to electric company power lines" would now be required to have circuit breakers certified by licensed electricians.

It was discovered that the vast majority of rides were powered by generators checked by state inspectors.

The story is a bit confusing, and if I have some time later on I'll dig around a bit more, but it sounds like essentially one key part got adopted (and a part that would have prevented this injury), but not the much broader set of requirements that would have increased regulatory oversight of electrical matters more generally.

--BC

 

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