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| Wooten Kimbrough Damaso & Dennis, P.A.

While standing in line at at theme park in anticipation of enjoying a ride you have seen advertised on television you read a warning. It tells you not to ride if you are pregnant or if you have a back or neck injury. No problem there and so you proceed to the ride. While on the ride something about the ride causes you to smash a vertebrae, rupture a disc, or sustain a head injury. Should the parks be held responsible for these injuries where the park "guest’ did nothing wrong, obeyed all warnings and there was no foreseeable likelihood of such an injury being sustained from the advertisements about the ride? What if the theme park operator knew others were hurt before on the ride but they deliberately make no mention of it in the warning? This is the true state of facts for many theme park rides.

Sadly, in Florida the big theme parks are legally allowed to keep most ride related injuries forever secret even when the injuries are sustained in the normal operation of the ride and even when the warning mentions nothing of the known prior injury. The parks intentionally withhold from the public information about ride injuries and instead go to great lengths to keep the data secret. Look up Florida Fifth District Court opinions on the subject. You will see the theme parks keep injury data secret and they are not obligated to report injuries except in very limited circumstances (in fact, the local fair is held to a higher injury reporting standard than the big 3 parks). To prove the point out of the multitude of injuries in the lawsuits cited in an Orlando Sentinel article today : "only nine of the 101 ride-related lawsuits found in the Sentinel’s review of 2004-08 court cases were reported to the state as accidents when they occurred." The parks keep secret most of the injuries sustained in amusement park ride related injuries.

The theme park industry has cadres of lawyers who are hired to keep the information on ride injuries away from the public. Why would they do that if the rides are as safe as they claim. I have represented children with horrible permanent head injuries and facial scarring, others with broken bones and ruptured discs requiring surgery. All sustained from using the ride as instructed. Tell me where the warning explains those risks. Further on some of the rides the same injuries had been caused to others already on the same ride yet the warning makes no mention of the known danger.

Even after it is proved that the injury was caused by the ride, many times the parks do not do the right thing. Most people just want their medical bills paid but they get stonewalled by the parks. Often these are tourists from out of the country who do not have health insurance for U.S injuries. Other times U.S. health insurance does not cover the injury and so when the parks refuse to pay for even the medical bills indisputably caused by the ride "guests" must then come to a lawyer out of desperation.

The big parks make billions from advertising inviting guests to ride their rides. In turn, when an invited guest heeds all warnings, uses a ride in the manner intended, and yet sustains serious injury on a ride shouldnt the park pay for the damage caused by the ride? In my mind, that is simply the right thing to do.

Ed Normand.

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