Under Pennsylvania law, ride owners and operators inspect the amusement rides they own. Often, these ride owners do not have ride manuals and frequently lack a sophisticated understanding of their own rides.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for owners to identify ordinary ride repairmen as “experts.” A recent case handled by our firm demonstrates the casual attitude often exhibited by ride owners and operators to public safety. In this amusement park accident case, a woman was nearly ejected from a ride called the Airborne as it began its climb. The ride’s faulty motion, coupled with a lack of common safety equipment (a seat belt!), caused her neck injuries.
The ride’s head maintenance man claimed to be an expert under Pennsylvania law and testified that our client’s accident could not have possibly happened as described by her and other eyewitnesses. His opinion was freely given despite the fact that he did not witness the accident and his repairs, previously performed on the ride, were at issue in the case! This so-called “expert” gave these opinions even though he was not an engineer and even though he had difficulty identifying common information.
What this case demonstrates is that amusement park rides, offered to the public at carnivals, fairs, and even at major parks, are sometimes open to the public despite their bad operations, unqualified inspectors, or old, outdated or faulty machinery. And, if these rides are involved in an accident, you might be surprised to learn that the ride was likely first inspected by the very same ride owner or repairmen responsible for the ride’s maintenance. Moreover, it is not uncommon for the state inspectors to arrive several hours after the accident. By that time, who knows what action the ride owner or repairmen may have taken in an attempt to limit their own liability before the state arrived on the accident scene.