Over the weekend, a Dallas woman was killed when she fell from a roller coaster car on the 14-story tall Texas Giant ride in Arlington’s “Six Flags Over Texas” amusement park. (You can get more details on the accident from the Fort Worth Star Telegram article.)
Let’s take a look at a few legal “hotspots” related to this story:
There is Limited Government Regulation of Roller Coasters. You might be surprised to learn that for fixed-site rides like those at any Six Flags amusement park, there are no federal safety regulations in place. Only about half of U.S. states regulate fixed-site rides and conduct park inspections, and Texas is not one of them (there is no state regulatory agency set up to monitor the safety of amusement parks). Learn more about Amusement Park Accidents and the Law.
Six Flags Could Be Liable for a Park Employee’s Negligence. There has been at least one witness report suggesting that, before the ride departed, the accident victim expressed concern over whether or not the car’s safety bar was working properly. (The Dallas Morning News has detailed some safety and staffing concerns at the park.)
If it is shown that a park employee’s negligence caused or contributed to the accident, then that worker’s carelessness will be imputed to the owners and operators of the park, under a legal theory known as “vicarious liability.” So, let’s say that it is park policy for employees to check that each Texas Giant coaster car’s safety bar is properly engaged prior to the start of the ride, and it’s also shown that a worker failed to do that in this case. Six Flags could be on the financial hook for the victim’s death in that situation, most likely in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Roller Coaster Car Manufacturer Could Be Liable If the Car’s Safety Features Malfunctioned. If the Texas Giant roller coaster car’s safety mechanisms did not function properly during the ride, and that failure played a role in the accident, then the car’s manufacturer could be held liable under a product liability legal theory. The Los Angeles Times reports that the German company that manufactured cars for the Texas Giant has already sent investigators to the accident scene in Arlington.
Six Flags Could Claim a Number of Legal Defenses. If faced with a personal injury lawsuit over the victim’s death, it’s a safe bet that Six Flags will try to argue a variety of legal defenses that are common in amusement park accident cases, including rider assumption of the risk, and rider non-compliance with park/ride safety rules. Learn more about Legal Defenses in Personal Injury Cases.