TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chicken Little, Tort Law, & Roller Coasters Revisited

The nature of blogging is such that it's easy to lose a long-term view of things (at least for me); an event occurs, predictions are made, and we forget about it.

But this time of year, where amusement parks tend to start announcing new attractions, always reminds me about one California Supreme Court ruling that happened a few years ago, and reminds me to check in on the predictions that ensued. (The start of summer triggers a similar thought process, as you can see from a post I did in 2006.)

The case (Gomez v. Superior Court, 35 Cal. 4th 1125 (2005)) involved the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, and the issue was whether amusement rides should be classified as common carriers.  The Supreme Court concluded that they would be.  I thought the Court was probably right, even if I'd draft a common carrier statute differently (I wrote here about the lower court's decision, and a little here after the Supreme Court decision; Tony Sebok disagreed here.  A note, California's Extension of Common Carrier Liability to Roller Coasters and Similar Devices: An Examination of Gomez v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 34 W. St. U. L. Rev. 29 (2006), by Mark Franklin, agreed with the majority.) 

But whether or not the decision was right, I found the reaction most interesting, in particular the reaction from John Robinson, of the California Attractions and Parks Association:

"It puts roller coasters out of business."

As I noted here, the odds of that happening were vanishingly small, for a variety of reasons. 

The statute remains unamended, parks continue to operate, and, while they're obviously not immune to the economic situation, so far as I can find, no theme park company has seen fit to mention the California Supreme Court decision in their SEC filings (and I'm fairly sure that the end of roller coasters in California would count as a material risk).  To the extent parks are having trouble, none of them blame common carrier status in California.

And indeed, since then, about ten coasters (depending on when you start counting from) have either opened or been announced in California.  Another common carrier state, Missouri, has a half dozen.  Minnesota has four.

Sky: still there.  Wolf: hasn't shown up.  Roller coasters: still opening.


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