A half-dozen years ago, a woman died after falling from a Zamperla Hawk ride at Rockin’ Raceway in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Â I posted quite a number of entries about the case, all of which are here. Â It turned out that the microswitches that would prevent the ride from operating when the restraints weren’t locked in had been bypassed. Â The park owner was convicted of reckless homicide, the jury concluding, necessarily, that he had performed that bypass.
The decedent’s family filed suit against the ride manufacturer, Zamperla, alleging design defect. Â (The park and park owner were originally in the suit, but voluntarily nonsuited, I would guess because they were judgment-proof.) Â The defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis that the criminal misconduct by the park owner was, as a matter of law, unforeseeable. Â The trial court agreed, and now, the intermediate appellate court in Tennessee has affirmed [PDF].
The opinion is quite interesting, and presents a very nice instance of the challenges presented by third-party misconduct in the context of product design. The plaintiffs contended that the design should have been harder to bypass, and I assume that such a design is feasible (it’s fairly easy to imagine such a thing). Â But, the court concluded, a park bypassing such critical safety mechanisms was, as a matter of law, unforeseeable. Â As such, the court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate on the claim of defect.
Definitely worth a read.