Amusement parks can be fun for the whole family, but who is responsible
when accidents occur? Thousands are injured in
amusement park-related accidents every year, but the liability issues posed can seem a bit blurry. Generally,
if an injured patron pursues a claim against an amusement park, the laws
of premises liability will be applied.
What Is Premises Liability?
The term premises liability refers to a set of laws that are used to determine
who, if anyone, is liable when an injury occurs in a building or on a
property. This includes on the grounds of amusement parks, and encompasses
the attractions, facilities, and public spaces, as well as crew-only areas and more.
When it comes to amusement parks, persons on the property are considered
one of two types of entrants:
Invitees: Ticketholders and employees are persons who are permitted onto the property
by the property owner, and their presence is known by the property owner
since they have been invited to be there, either to work a position in
the park or as an attendee of the park. These persons may also include
third-party contractors and others.
Trespassers: If someone is on the property who was not invited onto the property by
the property owner, they are a trespasser.
This distinction is important, since there is a duty of care owed to invitees,
but not to trespassers. The property owner must maintain a park that is
safe for all invitees, but they are not obligated to maintain a premise
that is safe to trespassers. If an invitee is injured due to a dangerous
condition on the property, the property owner breached their duty of care
to protect the invitee.
Trespassers, however, do not have the same protections. An example could
be someone who snuck into the park after dark, or an invitee that enters
a clearly marked off-limits area. Where this area gets confusing, however,
is when the invitee argues that they weren’t aware that the area
was off-limits. In these cases, it is possible that the property owner
may still be held liable for a higher duty of care.
Creating Rides with Safety in Mind
The designer and owner of an amusement park ride or attraction have what
is legally called a “duty of care” to everyone who may one
day ride it. That is to say, a ride has to be made reasonably safe when
it is used as intended and maintained correctly. Most amusement park rides
are meant to thrill riders, so this can seem paradoxical, but when you
think about it in more detail, it is easy to see that a well-made ride
has many ways to fulfill the duty of care. For example, rides should have
safety harnesses and restraints, instructions, and training manuals for
the staff, guides about how to perform inspections, and call for employee
supervision at all times. Due to the high standards set by a duty of care
for amusement park attractions, it is difficult for the designer or owner
to argue a malfunction is truly an accident and not a byproduct of neglect.
Maintaining Safe Spaces for Visitors
A major portion of premises liability cases—including those involving
an amusement park—is creating and maintaining a reasonably safe
environment wherever guests and visitors might go. The owner of an amusement
park has the unshakable responsibility of preventing and eliminating safety
hazards as they arise, in a reasonable amount of time. When a hazard cannot
be corrected at once, the “duty to warn” exists, which states
guests must be adequately warned about the danger. Consider “slippery
when wet” signs near large spills or tiled areas when it rains.
The duty to warn in an amusement park extends to amusement park rides,
too, as employees must warn riders of potential dangers if safety equipment
and restraints aren’t used correctly.
Injuries can turn a day at the local amusement park from terrific to tragic.
Our Tampa Bay
premises liability attorneys are here for you, however. At the Paulsen Law Group, we put
our experience, insight, and technology to work for you, and help you
understand all your legal options. Schedule a free consultation to discuss
your case with our legal team.
Contact our firm by calling (727) 270-8260.