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Tommy Fry was stuck on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Studios Orlando for about an hour back in 2015, when the ride he and his two sons were on malfunctioned. Fry claimed to have been suspended upside down for this time, though the facts are unclear, since the ride technically does not invert passengers, but rather, tilts them. Fry sued in 2017, claiming injury and mental anguish among other things. Last week, an amicable settlement was reached between the two parties for undisclosed terms.
This brings up an interesting question: can you sue an amusement park for being injured on a ride? Apparently yes, and the cases often settle, with payouts running into the millions of dollars.
Did the Amusement Park Negligently Operate the Ride?
Amusement parks are responsible for the acts of its employees. All employees must operate rides safely and carefully. Sometimes this doesn't happen based on actions, or inactions, by the employees. In this instance, Universal could be help liable if the operators, or maintenance workers, were negligent in their care and operation of the ride. Specifically had:
If the amusement park employees failed to perform any of these duties, and this failure led to the ride stopping, which led to the injury occurring, it is possible that the rider could have a negligence claim against the park.
Did The Rider Assume the Risk?
Even if the amusement park failed to provide the proper duty of care to riders, and it caused injury, the park may be able to offer an affirmative defense in the form of assumption of risk. Negligence is a state law claim, and not all states will allow an assumption of risk defense, but some do. The concept behind this defense is that if someone knows that participating in an act is inherently dangers, but chooses to partake nonetheless, they have "assumed the risk" of that activity.
For instance, a roller coaster is meant to be frightening. It's impossible to have one without inflicting some level of terror. But it is possible to have a roller coaster that has all of its parts in working order. The issue becomes do you reasonably assume the risk that a ride will break down and you will be stuck for an hour inverted or tilted? This will be an issue for jurors to discuss, since it may be reasonable to assume being stuck on a ride, but the reasonableness of the duration and position could easily be debated.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an amusement park ride, contact a personal injury attorney. A seasoned lawyer can review your case, often for free, and determine if you have a viable claim against the park owner.