Lately we have been seeing inquiries from folks injured on theme park rides where the ride was operating as intended. Case in point, a visitor from England who sustained injuries including a compression fracture of the lumbar spine while riding on a water slide. She did nothing wrong, followed all instructions and yet was permanently damaged. As one would expect, the theme park lobby has effectively kept this type of information hidden from the public. A County Fair ride that caused such an injury would result in a report of the injury and a State inspection. The big theme parks in Florida are legally exempted from reporting an incident like this because of a loophole that allows the big three theme park companies to not report injuries if the person is not immediately sent to an emergency room and is admitted overnight or dies.
The law also favors the big theme parks. A rider injured on a ride must prove that the park was negligent in the way it operated or maintained the ride or in the warnings provided to customers. Of course, the only one who knows if the ride was not operated correctly on the date and time of the injury is the park operator. Since they have no duty to report the injury there is no timely investigation to prove negligence. The theme park can then do a Sergeant Schultz (remember from Hogan’s Heroes: "I know nothing…….."). More likely they will blame the visitor claiming they must have done something wrong. Florida law should be changed to make a theme park operator subject to the same legal standard as a product manufacturer, that is the the theme park operator is strictly liable for an injury that occurs on a ride when the rider was following ride instructions. After all if the ride is not safe to be used as intended then the park should be responsible for the injuries caused by the ride. If the ride is safe, as they advertise, then they will have nothing to worry about with a legal standard of strict liability.