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Horrific Theme Park Accident Lawsuit Loses on Appeal

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Valencia, CAHere now, a potpourri of events in the Amusement Park Accident portfolio one would not necessarily think of. But it happens. To wit, a man who suffered severe brain trauma after being hit by a rollercoaster, and a theme park fined by the US Government after failing to protect its workers from the sometimes severe heat of summer.

As for the latter, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom - located in Allentown, Pennsylvania - came under fire by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a teen worker toiling at a food stand during a hot summer day, collapsed.

“In summer temperatures, amusement park workers face an increased risk of heat-related illness and death,” Jean Kulp, director of OSHA’s Allentown area office, said in a statement published in the Morning Call (Allentown, 12/30/14). “The threat of heat stress can be reduced significantly by establishing a heat illness prevention program for indoor and outdoor workers. The program should include effective training; consistently available water and shaded breaks; a thorough review of heat illness incidents; and acclimatization.”

It wasn’t revealed when the incident took place, beyond the fact that it occurred in June during an extremely hot day in Allentown. The teen, reported to be working near a deep fryer in the food stand, would have been exposed to temperatures far higher than those experienced due to the heat of the day.

It is not known if an Amusement Park lawsuit followed the incident. Nonetheless, the operator of the facility - Cedar Fair LP - was cited for failure to protect workers required to toil outdoors in direct sunlight and in small food stands with additional sources of heat.

The Feds propose a fine of $7,000 for the violation, in addition to a $2,000 penalty associated with a record-keeping violation.

To the other extreme is a man who suffered a horrific theme park accident. Carlos Ibanez was hit by a roller coaster in August 2008 at the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park located in Valencia, California. Ibanez suffered a traumatic brain injury in the roller coaster accident and sued Magic Mountain LLC for negligence. The first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. A second trial found in favor of Magic Mountain. Ibanez appealed, and earlier this month a California appeals court upheld the lower court ruling.

Here’s the rub with regard to Ibanez’s theme park injuries: having successfully and safely ridden the “Ninja” roller coaster, Ibanez allegedly entered a restricted area to retrieve his prized Dodgers hat, which had been gifted to him by a favorite uncle. Court heard that Ibanez ignored the warnings of theme park employees and scaled two fences to access the prohibited area into which his hat had fallen. He was then struck by the moving roller coaster.

The various courts had to determine if Ibanez, in this case, had invited fate - or if the facility could have done more to prevent riders from entering a restricted area, regardless of the rider’s motivation.

In the end, in the Amusement Park lawsuit, court determined that the defendant had done everything necessary to discourage Ibanez from entering the restricted zone, and that the plaintiff had entered, with much effort and in spite of warnings from staff, by his own accord.

Should the facility have been made to make the restricted area completely impenetrable to discourage patrons and prevent future Theme Park Accidents? That could be for a future court to decide. It is not known if Ibanez plans to appeal his case to a higher court through his amusement parks injury lawyer. The case is Ibanez v. Magic Mountain LLC, case number B248863, in the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District.

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READER COMMENTS

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I have served as a warnings expert in several amusement park accidents involving inadequate warnings given to riders of certain rides (e.g. Coasters, etc.) including one at a water theme park where an obese man was allowed by the attendants to go on a water slide because they didn't want to insult him over his weight (which violated their posted limits). He fell out of the slide and suffered severe spinal injuries. I had a similar case where a famous roller coaster failed to adequately warn a child who was too young for the ride not to get on the coaster. He ultimately fell out of his seat and was almost killed. Dr. Gerald Goldhaber (President and CEO, GRA, LLC, www.Goldhaber.com).

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