San Jose Mercury News reports...
Bumper car patrons at Great America theme park and other amusement parks may be able to sue if they get hurt in that laundry cycle of getting bounced and jostled on the popular rides.
In a ruling Friday, a divided San Jose-based state appeals court found that a local doctor could sue the owners of Great America for breaking her wrist riding a bumper car with her son in 2005. The decision overturned a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who tossed the lawsuit because of the conclusion the park did not have a legal duty to guarantee against such an injury.
The 6th District Court of Appeal disagreed, saying a jury should decide if Cedar Fair Entertainment, Great America's owners, was negligent in failing to taking steps to prevent head-on collisions on the bumper car ride. The lawsuit alleges Cedar Fair took precautions at other amusement parks it owns, but not at Great America's "Rue Le Dodge" bumper car ride.
"(Cedar Fair) holds the park open to the public with the promise of safe fun and excitement," Justice Conrad Rushing wrote for the court. "Without question, it is best situated to minimize any risks associated with its rides.
"Although bumping is part of the experience of a bumper car ride," the court continued, "head-on bumping is not. In fact, it is a prohibited activity."
The lawsuit was filed by Smriti Nalwa, identified in court papers as a San Jose doctor who took her young son and daughter to Great America in July
2005. According to the ruling, she was one of 55 people injured on the bumper car ride out of several hundred thousands patrons during the 2004 and 2005 park seasons, although the only person to suffer a fracture.
Patrick Hurley, Cedar Fair's lawyer, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2006, a year after the accident, Cedar Fair changed Great America's bumper car ride to add an island in the middle to keep drivers headed in the same direction, as was done at other parks around the country.
Justice Wendy Duffy wrote a long dissent, maintaining the ruling stretches the reach of liability for amusement park operators and that park patrons assume a certain risk when they jump in a bumper car.
"The name of the game is to bump and to attempt to avoid (often unsucessfully) being bumped," Duffy wrote. "(The record) discloses no evidence that Cedar Fair increased the risk inherent in riding Rue Le Dodge."
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