State Supreme Court Rules That Amusement Parks Can't be Sued by Injured People

By: Sylvia Ramirez - Tue, 01 Jan 2013 00:18:20 -0800

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- The California Supreme Court says that people who ride on bumper cars and similar attractions at amusement parks can't sue the park operator for injuries they incur in normal use of the rides.
      
The court by a 6-1 vote rejected a claim of negligence in a lawsuit filed against the owners of the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara by a San Jose doctor who fractured her wrist during a bumper car ride in 2005.
      
The plaintiff, Smriti Nalwa, took her then-9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to Great America on July 5, 2005, and rode in a bumper car driven by her son.
      
When the car was bumped from the front and then from the back, Nalwa braced her hand on the car's dashboard and fractured her wrist.
      
Nalwa sought to claim in her lawsuit that the park owner, Cedar Fair L.P. of Sandusky, Ohio, was negligent in the way it operated the ride.
      
But in a decision issued at its San Francisco headquarters, the court said Cedar Fair was protected from the claim by a doctrine known as "assumption of risk."
      
Under that doctrine, people who voluntarily engage in inherently dangerous activities such as skiing and touch football can't sue other participants or the event operators over injuries suffered during the activities.
      
The doctrine was established by the state high court in 1992 and has previously been applied to active sports.
      
But appeals courts around the state had disagreed as to whether the theory applied to recreational activities as well.
      
In Monday's decision, the court settled the conflict by saying the doctrine applies to active and voluntary recreational pursuits in which risk is an integral part of the activity.
      
Justice Katherine Werdegar wrote, "Low-speed collisions between the padded, independently operated cars are inherent in -- are the whole point of -- a bumper car ride."
      
Werdegar said, "While not highly dangerous, such collisions, resulting in sudden changes in speed and direction, do carry an inherent risk of minor injuries, and this risk cannot be eliminated without changing the basic character of the activity."
      
The court overturned an appeals court ruling that said the doctrine of assumption of risk should not apply to bumper car rides because the activity was not a sport.

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