The recent horrific incident at the Ohio State Fair that resulted in the death of one amusement park rider and serious injuries to several others has people concerned on a multitude of levels.
Who’s to blame? What legal steps should those families involved be taking? And with fair season ready to kick-in all over the country, how do you protect yourself – legally and physically – when it comes to enjoying carnival rides?
In this Proskin Law Firm Q&A, attorney Lisa Proskin addresses those issues and more:
Q: The family of the young man who died is filing a “wrongful death” lawsuit. Is this standard procedure this early in a case such as this?
A: Wrongful death is the appropriate action. I don’t know the statute of limitations on this in Ohio but there certainly is one. Often there is a shortened statute where the state or other municipality is involved so that may be why they moved so quickly. They also may have just wanted to capitalize on the publicity and use it in their favor.
Q: If you were representing the family who would you be suing?
A: We’d be suing everyone – the inspectors, the state, the fairground, the ride company, the manufacturer and anyone else connected.
Q: One of the co-owners of the ride company is blaming this in on “mechanical failure”. If the ride did pass multiple inspections, can the owners still be held liable for an unforeseen mechanical failure?
A: It’s early and you don’t know yet why this happened. Someone had to be negligent and at fault. Seats shouldn’t fly off of a ride. Period. You can’t get away with simply calling this an accident.
Q: If the ride did pass inspection, does that get anyone off the hook when it comes to possible legal responsibility?
A: Ohio has inspection requirements. Not every state does. New York does too, many states don’t (among them Vermont). There is certainly an argument that the company and the state are liable for what happened to these riders. The fairground (if owned by someone other than the state) and the manufacturer (depending on what caused the problem) could also be liable. If people are injured from a “known risk” then there is an assumption of the risk argument. Here, there isn’t an argument that they should have known they could be ejected from the ride.
As their lawyer, I’d also check if the inspectors are state employees or private contractors.
Q: As a parent, what are your thoughts when it comes to amusement park rides, especially those that travel from town to town this time of the year?
A: One assumes if rides pass inspection that they’re safe. Not in this case. As a mom, I’ve always steered clear of carnival/fair rides. I just don’t trust something like that is being moved and reassembled weekly. I’m sure the company will argue that they’ve been doing this x amount of years in so many different places and this is the first problem.
It’s a sad situation, probably a good lawsuit and a terrifying problem.