As spaces that hold themselves open to the public, amusement parks have a strict duty to keep the premises safe for their users. So when a visitor suffers an injury due to a danger that the amusement park overseers and should have known about, the amusement park is liable.
Such may be the case with Camden Park in Mingo County, West Virginia. Camden Park is a 26-acre amusement park located near Huntington that was founded in 1902. It holds picnics, baseball events, and a zoo, as well as rides such as the Big Dipper, the Rattler, Haunted House, and — until 2011 — the Spider. Recently, a family filed a lawsuit over injuries their daughter sustained on the Spider ride in 2011.
While Jennifer Ooten watched nearby, her daughter Rianna boarded the ride with a cousin. The operator allegedly accelerated the ride until an arm flew off and hit the other arm of the ride, causing Rianna’s bucket seat to suddenly turn over. Then, while the bucket was still turned over, the ride allegedly began to move backwards until the operator turned it off. Later, a local police investigation found that the cause of the accident was allegedly an old crack in the main spindle that had not been fixed.
As a result of the accident, Rianna Ooten allegedly suffered serious injuries, and her parents are seeking compensatory damages for the injuries and losses, including loss of consortium (deprivation of benefits of a family relationship). The Ootens claim that Camden Park failed to exercise ordinary care to keep and maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
When a landowner holds the property open to the public, the landowner has what is known as a duty to invitees. As stated earlier, the duty to invitees is the strictest duty a landowner has, and typically applies to people doing business on the property. Another common duty that a landowner has is to licensees, or guests on the property. Licensees are guests who are not there for a business purpose, and include visiting family or friends. For licensees, a landowner needs to warn about any hidden dangers that the landowner knows about. For invitees, on the other hand, a landowner needs to warn about, or make safe, any hidden dangers that the landowner knew about or should have known about after a reasonable inspection. By contrast, a landowner typically has no duty to a trespasser on the property, except for certain known tresspassers.
The Ootens’ case may depend upon whether Camden Park conducted routine inspections and whether, even with a reasonable inspection, the crack in the main spindle of the ride remained hidden. A landowner is not liable even to invitees if the defect could not be detected through a reasonable inspection.
In the meantime, if you were injured on someone else’s property and believe that it was due to the property owner’s insufficient care, you should consider hiring an experienced West Virginia premises liability attorney to look into the issue and represent your interests.