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Amusement Park Government Regulation Urged

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Boston, MAIf more federal and state oversight would reduce the number of amusement ride injuries, lawyer Jonathan Karon would be happy to have fewer clients in his office. The first amusement park injury case Karon handled involved a little girl who suffered a torn scalp after coming into contact with an “unguarded motor.”

“Her injuries required multiple, painful treatments and skin grafts, and there were psychological effects as well,” says Karon. “It was pretty bad.

“Any sort of reasonable inspection and a dollar’s worth of weather stripping would have handled the hazard,” says Karon, who represented the family in a successful suit against the manufacturer and distributor of the ride.

“These are rides that operate in potentially very dangerous environments. And it is that all rides are inherently dangerous, but if you don’t do the proper maintenance and inspection that is required, there is a potential for fatal injuries, and some of the non-fatal injuries have been pretty serious,” says Karon.

A new study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is calling for increased regulation after it found that an astounding 92,885 children were injured on amusement park-type rides over the last 20 years.

Thirty-two percent of the injuries were the result of a fall from either getting on or off the ride. The most common injury was to the head or neck area, closely followed by injuries to arms, face and legs. Ten percent of the injuries resulted in broken bones.

Ohio State University College of Medicine professor and author of the study, Dr. Gary Smith, says, “in the U.S., a child is treated in an emergency department, on average, every day, for an injury from an amusement ride located in a mall, store, restaurant or arcade.”

“The study is very consistent with what we see in our firm,” says Karon. “The most interesting finding was the number of amusement ride accidents that occurred on rides that were located at malls or restaurants or arcades, because people tend not to think of those.”

The study’s researchers are calling for an increased awareness of the possible dangers of amusement park rides and calling for “a coordinated national system” that would prevent amusement park ride injuries “through better industry surveillance and more consistent enforcement.”

Attorney Karon agrees that a more coordinated oversight approach would radically improve the current situation.

“When the circus comes to town, it’s unlikely that anyone from the Consumer Product Safety Commission is going out to inspect the Tilt-a-World,” says Karon. “The job is left to the state inspectors, and these days, they don’t get the kind of budgets they need to do the job they’d like to do. So you are relying on the owners and operators of the rides to do the proper maintenance and inspection. Some do and some don’t.”

When there is an accident, Karon advises, focus on getting medical help for the injured person. Don’t worry about taking photos and gathering evidence. Karon’s firm, Karon & Dalimonte, LLP, has successfully represented dozens and dozens of amusement park accident victims.

The defendants in the cases are most often the owners and operators of the rides or the amusement park owners, and sometimes even inspectors who fail to identity safety issues. “There are very well-established industry standards about what you are supposed to do if you are doing things right. And there are plenty of places that do things right,” says Karon. “But when these happen, it is clear there are some pretty detailed inspection and maintenance requirements for the owners of parks and carnivals to prevent things.”

Better yet, says Karon, would be to decrease the number of amusement park accidents before they happen.

Jonathan Karon is a partner in Karon & Dalimonte, LLP, in Boston. He focuses on complex personal injury cases and general civil litigation. He has tried wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, toxic tort, product liability, professional negligence, business fraud, general negligence and criminal cases, and has done appeal cases. He is a frequent guest speaker and has been named to the Massachusetts Super Lawyers list five years in a row.


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