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Amusement Parks: Personal Injury & Product Liability; New York State Developments

Amusement Parks: Personal Injury & Product Liability; New York State Developments

For more information, please contact The Ahearne Law Firm, PLLC at (845) 986-2777 for an initial consultation and case evaluation.

The New York State Department of Labor announced last week that it will be re-inspecting all rides managed by the company involved in a fatal accident at the Ohio State Fair that caused the death of a young Marine, as well as all rides of a similar type owned by any company, “out of an abundance of caution.”

Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, was killed last Wednesday night when the Fire Ball thrill ride broke apart and sent several people flying through the air. Seven others, with ages ranging from 14 to 42, were injured; two were listed in critical condition Thursday at Ohio State Medical Center.

The Fire Ball, an “aggressive thrill ride,” swings 24 riders back and forth like a pendulum while they sit facing each other in four-seat carriages that also spin and are attached to the main arm. The Ohio State Fair rides are provided by Amusements of America, which has not commented on Wednesday’s fatal accident. The Fire Ball, also known as the Afterburner, was built by Dutch manufacturer KMG, which said that none of its 43 rides in the U.S. have ever been involved in a serious malfunction before.Records show that inspections were up to date and an Ohio state permit had just been issued for the ride.

The New York State Department of Labor has also asked all companies operating the same ride to voluntarily shut them down until more is known about what caused the Ohio State Fair ride malfunction. A New York State Fair official says the Fire Ball was not scheduled to come to this year’s New York State Fair in Syracuse.

Legoland

As covered in our March 17th blog (Orange County Legoland Project & New York Labor Law Concerns) and May 8th blog (Hudson Valley: Best Places to Live and Legoland), a new Legoland theme park in Goshen, New York is proposed to be built on 140 acres of a 523-acre site with a theme park including rides and attractions, an aquarium, restaurants and a hotel.

The Planning Board in Goshen has advanced the Legoland theme park proposal by accepting developer Merlin Entertainment’s “Final Environmental Impact Statement.” The board’s 6-1 vote on Thursday came after a public hearing on the proposal, which calls for the park to be built on a 523-acre parcel near Exit 125 of Route 17 in Goshen, with a reconfigured Exit 125 on Route 17, to be used for the park instead of the main Goshen exit of 124.

Merlin expects 2 million visitors per year, with the facility open from April 1 through Halloween. One-third of the visitors are expected to be tourists, another one-third would be day-trippers and the final third would be local residents. The proposal projects Legoland would generate average annual sales tax revenue of $1.3 million for Goshen and $9.4 million for Orange County over the next 30 years. In a statement included in a Merlin Entertainments press release, Goshen Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield says, “The addition of these most recent benefits again shows that Legoland is doing more than its part in being a good corporate neighbor and truly benefiting the community in a substantial and meaningful way.”

The Goshen town board still has to vote on two proposed laws to make the Legoland viable. One is a proposed law amending the zoning code to create a commercial recreation overlay zoning district to allow a commercial recreation facility. The second is a proposed law to amend the comprehensive plan to allow for commercial/tourism recreation uses in certain areas. The next step in the Legoland review process in Goshen is the Planning Board voting on the developer’s “findings statement.” Approval of that would allow the project to move toward site plan approval, which would clear the way for construction to begin. If all approvals are granted and the project moves forward, Legoland officials say a 2019 timeline for the park’s opening still stands.

Amusement Park Accidents

If you are injured in an amusement park, the company that operates the park may be legally responsible for your damages. There are three general bases for liability:

1.  Negligence: If an amusement park accident was caused by the carelessness or inattention of the park or a park employee, then the most likely legal claim is for negligence. In a standard negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the law required the defendant to be reasonably careful, that the defendant was not careful, and that this carelessness caused the plaintiff to be injured. Negligence law will find an amusement park responsible for injuries if the park failed to keep its rides or premises safe for visitors. The park or its employees may be negligent by affirmatively doing something or by failing to do something. Examples include:

  • failing to post clear warning signs that, for example, patrons with blood pressure or heart problems should not go on a ride
  • posting signs that don’t adequately warn riders of the risks involved
  • failing to properly train ride operators
  • failing to maintain equipment in a safe condition
  • failing to regularly inspect the rides
  • improperly operating a ride, or
  • providing incorrect instructions to riders.

Most states have laws requiring amusement parks to take certain strict safety precautions. If a park does not do so, there will be a legal presumption that the park operated negligently, which makes it easer to prove a claim against the park. In some states, owners and operators are not automatically insurers of the safety of park visitors. Therefore, they will only be liable when it can be proved that they acted negligently.

2.  Product liability: Product liability may be found if a ride was so inherently dangerous that proper maintenance, inspection and use could not have prevented the injury. An injured person may sue both the manufacturer and the park, but to win, he/she must show that the manufacturer could have used an alternative design that would have prevented the injury, which obviously is both difficult and expensive to do. In addition, the person suing must also show that the park owner failed to use reasonable care when deciding to have the ride at all.

Another hurdle is that a court may find that a person assumed the risk in using the ride, and that it is unrealistic to expect manufacturers to take all sorts of precautions to make a ride 100% safe. Some amusement park accidents are caused by defective rides or components and not by improper maintenance, inspection, operation, or use. For example, the faulty design of a lap bar may cause the bar to unlatch mid-ride, so that the rider falls to the ground. Structural or design defects in the ride itself may give rise to defective product liability claims against the manufacturer of the ride or the maker of the defective part. In these claims, plaintiffs must prove that the structure, equipment, or part was defective and that the defect specifically caused injury or death to the victim.

3.  Premises liability: Property owners must exercise reasonable care in the construction, management and maintenance of all grounds and facilities. Failure to do so will make the owner liable for injuries suffered by people invited onto the property for business purposes, such as a park visitor. Even open and obvious dangers may result in liability.

#NewYork #OrangeCounty #personalinjury #accident

If you or a family member suffered injuries at an amusement park, you or your family member may be entitled to money damages.

For more information, please contact The Ahearne Law Firm, PLLC at (845) 986-2777 for an initial consultation and case evaluation.

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