Last summer, amusement park and fair operators in California voluntarily closed a popular ride after a fatal accident in Ohio. The popular Fireball ride malfunctioned at the annual Ohio State Fair and killed one rider. This prompted ride operators around the country to perform emergency safety evaluations on their own rides.
In California, six similar rides were closed for such evaluations. California’s Great America in Santa Clara and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park are popular with Los Angeles residents and tourists. Amusement parks that operate amusement rides have a responsibility to make sure their guests are safe. Temporarily closing these California rides helped to ensure that Los Angeles amusement park guests were not put in harm’s way.
Amusement Park Duty of Care
What level of care do amusement parks owe you when you visit? Do you give up your right to a safe environment simply because amusement park rides can be dangerous? Does purchasing a ticket to ride a rollercoaster waive any liability the amusement park may have for harm you suffer? Who bears the responsibility for injuries if rides, such as the one at the Ohio State Fair, malfunctions? As amusement parks across California see a surge in attendance in the summer these are all important questions to ask. Generally, amusement parks and operators of rides can be liable for injuries you suffer on a rollercoaster.
If you visit a tourist spot in Los Angeles that is open to the public you expect to be safe while on the premises. If, for example, you visit the Hollywood Wax Museum you would expect to be able to enjoy the sculptures without harm. The Hollywood Wax Museum has a duty to prevent you from reasonable and foreseeable harm. This duty does not require the Los Angeles museum to go to extraordinary measures to ensure your safety. Rather, the museum must only exercise reasonable care. This could mean making sure exhibits are secured, the walkways are free from debris and spills, and that the building is up to code and safe to use. Tourist attractions are often held to this ordinary duty of care.
Common Carriers in California
Amusement parks, however, are viewed differently in California. Amusement parks and ride operators are held to a standard of care. This is because California amusement parks are considered to be common carriers. Common carriers are broadly defined as “an entity whose business transports people or goods from one place to another.”
Examples of common carriers that you may see around Los Angeles include the Metrolink regional rail, Hollywood tour buses, airplanes, and cruise ships. California courts have ruled that amusement parks should be added to this list. Common carriers have a responsibility to exercise the “utmost care and diligence” for their passengers’ safety. They “must provide everything necessary” to achieve that purpose. It is true that amusement park patrons must be aware of the potential dangers inherent in getting on a ride like the Fireball.
However, these amusement park rides are created and designed for public use. When amusement parks open these rides to the public they must take all precautions to prevent the riders from suffering any harm or injury. This is not to say that amusement parks are required to put foam rubber on every inch of their rides or operate the rides at very low speeds. These rides can still be operated in a way that thrills the customer. The amusement parks cannot guarantee a patron’s safety. They can guarantee that they have done everything that “human care, vigilance, and foresight” allow to ensure that rides will operate as intended. At the same time, riders are responsible for following rules and safety guidelines posted by the amusement parks.
If a ride malfunctions, an amusement park could be liable for injuries or deaths if they neglected to use the utmost care in maintaining or operating the attraction. An investigation into the cause of the injury or harm will help to determine if the amusement park breached its heightened duty of care to amusement park customers. An amusement park or ride operator may be liable for injuries if even the slightest degree of negligence is discovered.
Contact an Attorney After an Amusement Park Injury
If you or someone you know has been injured on an amusement park ride in Los Angeles you may be entitled to compensation. Amusement parks are required to use the utmost care and diligence in the maintenance and operation of their rides. Failure to exercise this level of care could result in liability for your injuries. Contact the amusement park injury attorneys at Citywide Law Group today for a free consultation. We would be happy to discuss your claim, determine potential liability, and explain your legal options.