California Supreme Court Rules That Amusement Parks Are Not Liable For Injuries On Properly Operating Rides

Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court ruled that amusement parks are not financially liable for injuries suffered on properly operating thrill rides, such as bumper cars.

The state’s highest court made the decision after reviewing a lawsuit filed by a woman who broke her wrist on a bumper car ride at the Great America amusement park in Northern California. The woman claimed that the park was negligent in operating the ride, and that they should compensate her for the injury.

A lawyer for the park stated, “there will always be a slight risk in these activities.” Cedar Fair L.P., the company that owns the park, added that riders assume responsibility for themselves once they enter the ride.

Some activities, such as high-contact sports like football or wrestling, are recognized as being inherently dangerous, and people participating in these activities should assume any risks of injury. Amusement park owners have asked the court to consider such rides like bumper cars to be inherently dangerous, and the riders assume any risks before entering the bumper cars.

Justice Joyce L. Kennard responded, “the point of the bumper car is to bump.” If the court were to find liability in the amusement park owners, there would essentially be no more thrill rides like the bumper car. After all, what is a bumper car without the bumping? After deliberation, the court decided to join thrill rides like bumper cars among the class of inherently dangerous activities.

This opinion reversed an earlier decision at the state appeals court, ruling for the plaintiff after she sued a Northern California amusement park for breaking her wrist while on the bumper car ride.

The court has previously ruled that operators of roller coasters must use “the utmost care” to protect their riders. However, there is an important distinction between roller coasters and bumper cars. Riders have the freedom to steer and direct their bumper cars, but have no such freedom or control on rollercoasters.

Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote in her opinion that the act of riding in a roller coaster or driving bumper cars encompasses the act of defying gravity or “engaging in the mock violence of low-speed collisions,” at a very small degree of risk. However, when a park-goer engages in such acts, they are assuming any and all risks involved.

For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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