Ohio is home to several major amusement parks including Adventure Zone, Cedar Point, Coney Island, Kings Island, Stricker’s Grove, and Tuscora Park. Although your risk of suffering an injury is low, the cumulative number of accidents over the years is high. All told, Ohio amusement parks have paid out millions of dollars in compensation.
Following are some examples of amusement park accidents in Ohio:
- July 2018: A teenage boy threw a packet of hot sauce at a train, injuring seven people. The boy was arrested.
- May 2018: A park-wide power failure stranded dozens of guests on rides for hours in 90-degree heat.
- July 2017: One person died and seven people suffered injuries when a rotating ride that fell apart in midair ejected its riders. This situation prompted Tyler’s Law, named for Tyler Jarell who died on the ride, which mandated additional safety requirements for amusement parks;
- August 2015: A roller coaster struck and killed a man who intruded into a restricted area to retrieve a cell phone that he had lost on the roller coaster.
- June 21, 2015: A 37-year-old man seriously injured his leg when the gates in the ride’s loading platform pinched it during boarding.
- July 2014: A cable for a carriage attached to a pendulum snapped, injuring two riders.
- August 2013: A boat accident on a water ride injured seven people.
- 2006: A wooden roller coaster developed a bump when one of the rails split,injuring 27 people.
- 2003: A boy died after touching an electrified rail. Three people, including two state Inspectors, were convicted of crimes for failure to properly inspect the ride.
The foregoing list is only a partial account of the total number of accidents that have occurred over the years.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Liability
Ohio personal injury and wrongful death law can impose liability for amusement park accidents on operators, as well as on third parties, or even on you, depending on the circumstances. If the accident was partly your fault, Ohio could hold you responsible for some or even all of your own damages.
Applicable Standards: The Duty of Care
Ohio law on premises liability sets out an amusement park’s liability for injuries that occur inside the park. Two types of victims are responsible for almost all claims against amusement park operators–invitees and trespassers. Your likelihood of winning your claim depends greatly on which one of these categories you fall into.
You were an invitee if you were a guest who legally entered the park for entertainment purposes. The park has a duty to act with ordinary care for its guest’s safety and protection–in other words, it cannot act negligently. The park can be held liable for a hidden defect that injures you. The question is whether a “reasonable” amusement park operator would have either repaired it or warned of the defect.
You were a trespasser if you entered the park illegally, or if you entered a restricted section of the park. In this case, the park’s only duty towards you would be the duty to refrain from willfully, wantonly, or recklessly harming you. Generally, the park does not bear liability to a trespasser for negligence, or for injury caused by a hidden defect.
Proving Liability: Violation of Safety Regulations
The Division of Amusement Ride Safety and Fairs, part of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, is the entity responsible for amusement park safety in Ohio. Ohio amusement park safety laws were recently strengthened in the wake of the death of Tyler Jarrell (see above) at the 2017 Ohio State Fair. Tyler’s Law imposes more stringent safety standards on the duty of an amusement park to inspect its rides.
Proving liability under the doctrine of negligence per se
You don’t absolutely have to prove that the defendant violated a safety regulation to win your claim. You can simply prove that a reasonable person would have exercised greater care to avoid an accident.
It is easier, though, to win an amusement park injury claim if you can prove that the defendant violated a regulation. That is because the Ohio legal doctrine of negligence per se allows a plaintiff to prove negligence simply by showing a violation of a relevant safety regulation.
If you cannot show a violation of a safety standard, you must prove three things: negligence, causation (that the negligence caused your injuries), and damages.
Major Causes of Amusement Park Accidents
A handful of problems generate most amusement park accidents. Following are some of the most common causes:
- Mechanical problems: Snapped cables, failed brakes or restraints, etc.
- Structural failures: Corrosion can cause a ride or a component to come loose and act as a projectile.
- Operator error: Failure to deploy safety equipment, failure to properly restrain guests, abrupt stops, etc.
- Collisions with walls, tracks, structures, guests or other vehicles.
- Ejection of guests from cars, swings, slides, or floats.
- Poor ride design: Some rides are inherently dangerous, no matter how carefully you operate them. In such cases a product liability claim against the manufacturer would be appropriate.
Sometimes guests cause the very accidents that injure them. Failure to obey height requirements or health warnings, failure to follow safety warnings, or attempting to ride while intoxicated all cause accidents. In such cases, you would bear your own liability.
Putting It Into Perspective
Considering the total number of people who visit Ohio amusement parks every year, you are not likely to suffer a serious injury. If you suffered an injury, however, or if your loved one died due to amusement park negligence, Ohio does provide a financial remedy. This remedy will not only compensate you, but also hold the amusement park operator accountable. Contact one of our experienced attorneys today to set up a free consultation to discuss what we can do to help.