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Litigation Over Two Amusement Park Deaths Continue

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Dallas, TXLittle did the parents of 11-year-old Abiah Jones realize that when their daughter clambered aboard the Giant Wheel at Morey’s Pier in New Jersey, they would never see their daughter alive again. In another example of a horrific theme park accident, the little girl somehow fell from the imposing Ferris wheel and did not survive.

Her parents launched an amusement park accident lawsuit against Morey’s Pier Inc. While the case has legs and will continue, it appears that a change of venue will become necessary following the decision of a three-judge appellate panel located in Philadelphia - where the initial trial was to take place - which stressed the need and wisdom for a change of venue.

It now looks like the matter will be transferred to New Jersey, the state in which the accident happened.

According to various court documents, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled, in overturning a trial court ruling, that Twanda and Byron Jones v. Morey’s Pier Inc. et al., case number 2990 EDA 2012, in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, needs to be re-filed in the state in which the accident happened. There were various reasons for this, noted the appellate panel. Morey’s Pier is located in the state of New Jersey, as were the plaintiffs at the time the horrific theme park accident happened.

The tragedy occurred within the context of a school trip, in which the victim was a participant.

The judges went on to say that various first responders and other participants in the investigation of the accident, and subsequent death, were based in New Jersey and would have to travel to Philadelphia if called to testify or participate in the trial in any way. It would also take them away from their duties, and their constituents, in New Jersey.

The appellate panel also noted that many of the witnesses sought for trial were unwilling to be deposed without the issuance of a subpoena, which would be time-consuming and complicated. Such efforts, which were described as requiring extensive motions in Philadelphia court and civil actions in New Jersey courts, would not be needed if the case were tried in New Jersey instead.

“There are no obstacles to a fair trial in New Jersey,” the opinion states. “Appellants unequivocally proved that a trial of this case in New Jersey will be easier, more expeditious and less expensive.”

It was not clear why the case originally filed in Philadelphia, in the first place.

“Theme Park Accidents” represents a headline that no one would wish to see, but appears nonetheless. And as spring evolves to summer and the remnants of a harsh winter finally begin to fade - especially for residents in the northern states - families begin to flock to amusement parks for a little fun. The approaching Memorial Day weekend always sees a spike in theme park visits.

Sadly, an exponential part of that spike in visits is often a corresponding rise in incidents, and even amusement park deaths.

In an unrelated matter to the death of 11-year-old Abiah Jones, is the horrific theme park accident that claimed the life of 52-year-old Rosa Esparza. The victim tragically fell to her death from a roller coaster in July of last year while attending the Six Flags Over Texas theme park.

The family of Esparza filed an amusement park lawsuit against various defendants including Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Entertainment, Six Flags Theme Park Inc., Texas Flags Ltd., and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.

Both Six Flags and Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the Texas Giant roller coaster, deny allegations that the roller coaster was dangerous and defective, and that it wasn’t maintained properly.

The latest development, according to the Dallas Business Journal (2/18/14) and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, saw Six Flags Entertainment Corp. filing a cross-action lawsuit in state district court in Tarrant County against Gerstlauer. Six Flags maintains it complied with maintenance and inspection procedures recommended by the manufacturer, and thus has filed the cross-action against the German manufacturer, alleging the roller coaster was defective.

Gerstlauer has already denied liability in the initial amusement park lawsuit, and on March 5 filed a response to the Six Flags lawsuit. Amongst the contents of the Gerstlauer filing, is a claim that while the Texas Giant roller coaster was originally designed with seat belts, Gerstlauer was told to omit the seat belts and ship the roller coaster without them, or so it is alleged.

The Esparza lawsuit is Amado Esparza et al. v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. et al., case number 2013-268034, in the 342nd Judicial District Court of Tarrant County, Texas.

The Gerstlauer response is Cause No. 342-26803413, filed in Tarrant County, March 5, 2014.


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