What the Recent Cedar Point Accident Teaches Us About Theme Park Liability

cedar point

In August 2021, a woman was waiting in line for the Cedar Point Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster when she was struck in the head by a piece of metal that detached from the ride.

A forty-four-year-old woman in Michigan suffered a brain injury after being struck in the head by an “L-shaped” bracket that detached from the 420-foot ride, the second-tallest roller coaster in the world. The piece of metal was about the size of an adult male’s hand.

The incident is being investigated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture Division of Amusement Ride Safety & Fairs. According to David Miran, the ODA’s chief of amusement rides, the bracket is attached by a bolt and is supposed to hover just over the track. It is part of a series of sensors that keeps tabs on the coaster as it goes over a 420-foot hill in 17 seconds. The ride goes from a standstill to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds.

During the Cedar Point coaster’s descent, the bracket came in contact with the track and was ripped off, striking the woman while she was waiting in line.

The ride remains closed while the investigation continues and will not reopen this year.

The ride passed its last inspection, on May 24, 2021, and no major issues were found. Inspectors recommended hydraulic upgrades, a hydraulic propulsion upgrade, a lap bar cylinder creep test, and repairs to one car’s lap bar. The upgrades were completed and the ride was ruled compliant on May 15.

Common Causes of Amusement Park Injuries

While the risk of suffering an injury at an amusement is low, Ohio amusement parks like Cedar Point have paid millions of dollars in compensation over the years.

Common causes of amusement park injuries include:

  • Mechanical problems such as snapped cables, failed brakes, or malfunctioning restraints
  • Structural failures when a part comes loose from the ride
  • Operator error due to failure to deploy safety equipment or properly restrain guests, or abrupt stops
  • Collisions with other vehicles, tracks, walls, structures, or guests
  • Ejection of a guest from a ride
  • Poor ride design

Sometimes a guest is partially responsible for causing their own injuries. This may be because the guest disobeyed height or weight warnings, health warnings, or other safety warnings, or tried to ride while intoxicated.

Holding a Theme Park Liable for Injuries

Under Ohio law, a theme park can be held liable for injuries a guest suffers on their property.

Negligence Per Se

If you can prove that the amusement park violated a regulation, the injured person can hold the park responsible under the legal doctrine of negligence per se.

Even if the park did not violate any regulation, an injury victim can still hold the park liable under traditional theories of negligence.

Premises Liability

A guest who legally enters the park for entertainment purposes and suffers an injury, as was the case in this Cedar Point accident, has a good chance of holding the park responsible. As an invitee, the park has a duty to act with ordinary care to ensure the safety of the guest, and the park can be held liable for any hidden defects that cause injury. The question will be whether a “reasonable” amusement park operator would have repaired or warned users of the defect.

A guest who enters the park illegally or was injured in a restricted area of the park is treated as a trespasser. The park has a duty to refrain from willfully, wantonly, or recklessly causing harm and generally is not liable for negligence or injuries caused by a hidden defect.

Negligence

A park can be held liable for failing to act with ordinary care, such as if it failed to maintain a ride in proper condition, failed to perform regular inspections, or did not provide guests with the proper instructions. A park can also be held liable for failing to properly train ride operators, failing to post signs warning guests of possible known risks, or improperly operating the ride.

Product Liability

If the ride was improperly designed, the park and the manufacturer of the ride may be liable under a theory of product liability. For example, if a lap bar unlatched during the operation of the ride or a structural defect caused an injury, both the manufacturer and the operator may be responsible.

To be successful, the injured person must show that there was a defect in the ride or that an alternative design would have prevented the injury from occurring.

Robenalt Law Fights for You

If you or someone you love was injured by an amusement park ride, you and your family may be entitled to compensation. The theme park accident injury attorneys at Robenalt Law can help. We have the experience, resources, and expertise to take on the defendants that caused your injuries and hold them accountable.

Learn more about our team and why people choose us, then contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Categories: Types of Injuries

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