Two injured in a roller coaster accident

Last month two people, a park associate and a guest, were reportedly injured at California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara. The park associate, who was critically injured after being struck by a train returning to the station of the Flight Deck roller coaster was transported to Valley Medical Center and the guest suffering a hand injury was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

The employee was hurt while trying to retrieve a cell phone that had dropped near the Flight Deck’s platform. The guest was sitting in the roller coaster when it hit the employee and dragged him about 10-15 feet. The Flight Deck ride is an inverted roller coaster where the legs of the riders dangle freely from the coaster. The original name of this ride was Top Gun.

Owner and operator of a permanent amusement park ride are required to maintain “[p]rocedures for implementing patron safety measures necessary to ensure the operation of the ride in a manner that is safe for all patrons.” Cal. Code Reg. § 3195.3(a)(4)(D). The safety measures “shall consist of,” among other things, “[p]rocedures to ensure the implementation of all patron-specific safety measures necessary for operation of the ride in a manner that is safe for all patrons. These procedures shall, at a minimum, implement all specific manufacturer recommendations.” Id. See Castelan v. Universal Studios Inc., CV 12-05481 BRO (AGRx), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9092 at *4.

Such incidents have been in abundance and as the Supreme Court of California has laid out, the existence of safety regulations governing amusement park rides does not exempt amusement park owners from the primary assumption of risk doctrine. To be sure, the assurance of relative safety from grave injury, which state regulation helps to provide, is essential to amusement parks; few would voluntarily ride a roller coaster that regularly caused serious personal injuries. But perfect immunity from all risk of even minor injury is not generally the goal of the amusement park rider, and the state regulations do not guarantee such complete and perfect absence of risk. Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, L.P., 55 Cal. 4th 1148, 1165 (2012).

Given the state law, it is yet to be determined if the owner and operators were in compliance with the requirements, although the local and state authorities who are still investigating the incident, do not believe that the ride malfunctioned.

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