MassTort.org

Amusement park stuff. And other stuff.

An update

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I am no longer teaching law school, nor am I updating this blog. I’ve returned to practice in Austin, Texas.  I will leave the content up for the foreseeable future.

The parties in the litigation over the death of Sgt. James Hackemer (who was thrown from Darien Lake’s Superman ride) participated in a mediation settlement last month; according to a recent court filing, the case did not settle, and settlement discussions and mediation will only start again at the parties’ request.  (WordPress isn’t letting me upload the PDF right now, but that’s pretty much all the document says.)

Someday, perhaps reporters will actually do a quick search about the so-called Amusement Safety Organization before quoting it, and realize that it is not a useful source.  Today is evidently not that day.

One discussion.

Another.

The most recent.

Purely anecdotal, no evaluation or investigation, no context at all.

So, next time you’re tempted, click here.  Third result.

On July 8, 2011, Sgt. James Hackemer was killed when he was thrown from Darien Lake’s Superman roller coaster.  If you scroll through the last few months of posts, you’ll see a lot of entries about it.  His family filed suit not long afterwards (download the complaint here).  The suit was removed to federal court, and the court there has set a case management order, with a trial date set in April of 2013.  Of possible note, the court has ordered mediation to begin no later than December 16 of this year.  Even more than most cases, I’d be surprised if this case didn’t settle fairly quickly.

I’ve posted at TortsProf about the recent dismissal (with prejudice) of a claim against SeaWorld by members of the audience who witnessed the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer of killer whales.  Read about it here.

A local paper has a fairly detailed story on it.  The report evidently indicates that the employees were trained on all of the safety requirements (including, one assumes, the requirement that riders have both legs).  There appears to be no explanation as to why he was permitted to ride, given that — or given, as the article also points out, that Sgt. Hackemer also didn’t meet the minimum height requirements.

As noted previously, civil litigation has been filed.

I guess I don’t have to do the FOIA requests I was planning on, as the local TV station has done them and posted the various inspection reports.  At first read, I don’t see anything we didn’t already know in them, but I’ll probably have some down time today between orientation events, so I’ll try to look more thoroughly then.

Now this is interesting — New York’s Department of Labor, at the urging of Governor Cuomo, will be making public (via website) the department’s inspection and investigation reports.  I’ve found that — in general — states have been receptive to my requests for copies of investigation reports (especially when I cite the state’s FOIA or FOIA-equivalent), but I’m not aware of any other state that, as a matter of course, makes even the investigation reports easily available, much less the inspection reports.

A couple of updates:

  • First, here’s the complaint from the lawsuit filed by the family of Sgt. James Hackemer against Darien Lake: Darien Lake wrongful death complaint [PDF].  Nothing particularly surprising in it.
  • Second, the This American Life episode about amusement parks will air this weekend, but it sounds like the segment about safety and litigation likely will not be included at all, or will be very short.  Alas.  It still promises to be pretty great, so listen.

As hinted at earlier, the family of Sgt. James Hackemer has sued the owners and managers of Darien Lake over his death on the Ride of Steel.  His sister had previously said that the family didn’t blame the park, but, not unreasonably, the lawyer says that was said in the emotional aftermath, and before the facts of the case — and the investigation finding the operators (and their training) to be at fault — had come out.

In another story I hadn’t previously seen, it’s reported that Sgt. Hackemer was offered — but did not take — a brochure for people with disabilities.  That brochure (and the signage outside the ride) included the requirement that Ride of Steel riders have two legs.  According to the report, he said that he already had a copy of the brochure, but that evidently can’t be confirmed.