What can begin as a child’s dream can quickly turn into a nightmare when defective rides at state fairs and amusement parks malfunction. Recently, a high-profile case at the Ohio State Fair brought to light the dangers of carnival rides, many of which appear perfectly safe.
An 18-year-old, Tyler Jarrell, was killed in 2017 while riding the Fire Ball ride after a gondola broke loose from the structure and hit the ground below. The Fire Ball state fair accident alarmed consumer safety advocates and product liability attorneys. But little has changed since the families of Tyler and others that were injured filed personal injury state fair lawsuit.
In 2016, there were an estimated 30,000 serious injuries associated with amusement attractions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fatalities are less common, but since 2010 there have been 22 fatalities associated with amusement attractions and amusement park accidents. In 2020 and beyond, experts think injuries may increase due to the number of park visitors and more relaxed ride regulations.
Like any property owner, amusement parks, fairgrounds and waterparks are legally bound to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. If a person suffers an injury that could have been prevented, the injured victim may be able to file a successful claim against the amusement park and receive compensation. Dangerous rides may include:
- Alpine slides
- Water slides
Depending on what directly caused the injury, legal accountability may rest with amusement park ownership, the designer or manufacturer of a park ride, or a negligent ride operator.
Following an amusement ride accident, victims should contact an experienced lawyer to investigate.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated premises liability attorney and experienced amusement park lawyer, well-versed in the science and economic impact of recreational injuries and amusement park lawsuits.
Amusement Park Accidents
Amusement Park Safety Hazards
At the time of reporting, Ohio had only eight full-time inspectors overseeing a total of 3,800 rides, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News.
Ohio ride inspectors are responsible for monitoring ride safety at over 50 go-kart tracks, more than 360 fairs and festivals, and 149 other companies, including Cedar Point and Kings Island, two of the country’s largest amusement parks. The inspectors are also tasked with overseeing water parks and inflatable bouncy houses.
Current regulations do not require the state to hire professional and qualified engineers to hold the inspecting positions. Prior news reports noted that the Fire Ball ride was cleared by safety officials prior to the malfunction and accident that resulted in death and injuries.
All rides at the Ohio state fair were then closed and the ride’s manufacturer, KMG, ended all Fire Ball rides worldwide. The company found excessive corrosion caused a metal arm to break, leading to the ride accident and the state fair lawsuits.
Legal personal injury settlements with ride inspectors and Amusements of America were reached with the families of two of the injury victims. Jarrett’s family agreed to a $1.27 million settlement, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch. A young woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident settled a state fair lawsuit for $1.8 million.
Theme Park Negligence
A 2013 study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital concluded that from 1990 to 2010 an annual average of more than 4,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for amusement park accidents and ride-related injuries. Inflatable amusements in the years 2003 to 2013 caused an estimated 113,000 emergency department treated injuries.
Common amusement park accidents involve slip-and-fall accidents, unsafe or poorly maintained water rides, untrained or unsupervised ride operators, or machine malfunctions. Other factors that may cause injury include:
- Operator negligence.
- Mechanical failure.
- Inadequate security.
- Failure to post proper warnings.
- Corrosion and weather damage.
- Faulty straps or harnesses and safety lock failure.
- Inadequate padding or head protection.
- Sharp and protruding parts.
- Malfunctioning lap bars.
- Improper welds and Structural flaws.
- Design defects and Improper installation.
- Electrical failures.
- Failure to properly train ride operators.
- Ride inspection failure.
Defective Ride Accidents
- In July, 2017, an Ohio fairground ride collapsed, killed one person and injured seven others. The manufacturer of the malfunctioning ride at the Ohio State Fair said the deadly incident was caused by “excessive corrosion.”
- In August, 2016, a fatal injury killed a 10-year-old boy who rode a water slide in Kansas.
- In July, 2005, a Maryland girl fell from a ferris wheel after a cable came loose.
- Another amusement park accident in Ohio occurred due to the negligence of a ferris wheel operator who had consumed alcohol.
Dangerous Park Attractions
Employees at animal parks are also at risk of injury. A trainer at SeaWorld Orlando drowned when an orca whale grabbed her and dragged her under the water. Other theme parks targeted in liability lawsuits include:
- Kings Island
- Six Flags Over Texas
- Six Flags Magic Mountain
- Oakwood Theme Park
- Six Flags Over Texas
- Ohio State Fair
- Action Park
- Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
- Six Flags Great Adventure Park
Amusement Park Lawyer
When amusement ride accidents lead to injuries, victims may file claims against the management for gross negligence and also ride manufacturers in product liability claims.
If an amusement park injury was caused by the carelessness of the park management or an employee of the park, the lawsuit will most likely account for negligence.
Some amusement park injuries occur due to defective rides. Others target defective ride components. Faulty safety components and defects may lead to product liability lawsuits against the manufacturer of the ride or the maker of the safety component.
Plaintiffs and their Ohio amusement park lawyer must prove that the structure or equipment was defective, and that the defect caused injury.