Amputee sues Six Flags Over Texas after being denied ride entry

Posted Thursday, July 9, 2015 9:11 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A Fort Worth man has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Larry Panayi, from Fort Worth, says the park refused to let him get onto as many as 13 rides starting in 2013, because he has just one leg. In the suit, Panayi says he was humiliated, embarrassed and confused, because he had been able to go on most of the rides with no problem for years.

Read more and see video from KTVT/Dallas.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 9:24 AM

Well, for years, no one had been ejected from a ride either.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 10:17 AM

Seems like the critical distinction at one point was whether the amputation was above or below the knee. My feeling is that if you've got a knee, most restraint systems would keep you safely in the ride at all times (now, evac'ing a ride might be somewhat of a different story).

In general, safety has to be the TOP priority of the parks....I hope the judge sees it that way. Accommodating guests with handicaps/disabilities is important, but it cannot violate that first rule...ever.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 12:04 PM

I'd imagine that in the case of rides like Texas Giant, where you have little shin guards, not having a leg amputation in general is important.

I do wish people would consider their own safety. Yes, this man may have ridden a million times before now, but if the parks are finding that certain rides are not safe to ride with an amputation, why don't people consider that maybe there's a good reason they're no longer to permitted to ride? If a park says I cannot ride something because I'm too heavy, I'm not going to try and squeeze into the vehicle anyway. I may have been fine a few hundred times, but ride 356 might not be ok, and I'd rather be disappointed than dead.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 12:41 PM

When you're talking about discrimination, how much does intent matter? Isn't discrimination purposefully denying access or otherwise singling out someone or a group of people for no reason? I'm sure the park would want every single person that passes through its gates to be able to enjoy every attraction, but as has been noted on this board a million times, there are some things that certain people simply cannot do. Does a failure to provide equal access constitute discrimination?

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 12:49 PM

I'm not unsympathetic to the guy. I applaud him for hiking in mountains, jet skiing and otherwise living an active life. And I understand that he previously was able to ride those rides. But...

Companies change policies. Is Six Flags being overly cautious in light of various accidents in recent years? Possibly.

But dragging his nieces and nephews, who "look up to Uncle Larry" and think he "can do anything", into his complaint? That kind of bothers me.

Perhaps his nieces and nephews would also benefit from looking up to Uncle Larry, who understands that sometimes there are restrictions placed on us, and sometimes they're unpleasant?

I'm not saying he shouldn't contest the rule, or that he shouldn't sue the park. Just saying that maybe he should have had, at the least, the conversation with the supervisor out of earshot of the kids.

And his comment: "It just wasn't right for a public accommodating park to arbitrarily discriminate against a person with what they conceive as a disability."

"Arbitrarily discriminate...?" The park wasn't prohibiting him from riding for kicks and giggles. The park was prohibited him from riding because of policies they now have in place relative to the safety of guests.

"With what they conceive of a disability?" You don't need two legs to ride a Jet Ski. You don't need two legs to hike. But if business X says you need two legs to do Y because of reasons Z, then you need two legs, until and unless you can bring the business to understand how the policy should be modified.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 1:19 PM

I'm suing 30* NFL teams because they didn't draft me. I'm being discriminated against because I'm not a world class athlete.

*The Cleveland Browns had "suspended operations" 1996-1998 after Art Modell snuck the team off to Baltimore and the Houston Texans didn't exist until 2002, I would've been eligible for the draft in 1998.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 3:50 PM

SFOT, New Texas Giant in particular, does seem to have stricter rules in place. For example, there are plenty of signs at the entrance and throughout the queue of NTG that specifically state that you need "2 natural feet." Yet Iron Rattler and Wicked Cyclone, 2 very similar rides using the same trains and restraints (I think) do not. Is this in reaction to the NTG death? Is it part of a settlement? I don't know. But I do find it interesting that similar rides owned by the same company, (rules made under corporate policy) 2 of which are in the same state (rules required by state regulations) have different rider requirements.

P. S. - Shane, you cold probably play for the Browns. They are certainly not "world class athletes."

Last edited by Tommytheduck, Thursday, July 9, 2015 3:51 PM
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Thursday, July 9, 2015 7:22 PM

How many cases need to be brought up like this one before a general law or standard gets established to prevent these lawsuits in the future? Something like, "All amusement parks reserve the right to refuse service to anyone in cases where safety is in question." I don't know. Just seems like a constant waste of court time and resources. Maybe because so many never make it to trial before settlements occur or something?

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Thursday, July 9, 2015 8:38 PM

The guy must have a deathwish. Amusement rides weren't designed for one- or no-legged people. It sucks, but sorry dude, you're losing this one. Especially given what happened at Darien Lake.

Last edited by bjames, Thursday, July 9, 2015 8:38 PM
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015 1:31 PM

I doubt he's going to have a case and obviously safety should be the main concern but I wonder do the ride manufacturers have any guidelines that identify certain restraint types as being appropriate for people with certain disabilities/amputations? It seems to me that some rides are going to be safe for him but not other amputees and the other way around depending on the ride, the restraints and the type of amputation. Is the park making determinations about what is actually safe for disabled riders or making a blanket knee jerk reaction to having someone fall out of a coaster? I have been in the position before of trying to determine if the warning signs on rides applied the specific health issue I had developed and in a lot of my research and discussions with doctors I kept running into a prevailing attitude that since it was a leisure activity instead of looking into the specific dangers an individual might have to be concerned about and why a particular type of ride may or may not aggravate your condition it was easier for them to just say it has a warning sign, find another hobby. Only one of my specialists was willing to have an in depth discussion about it instead of blowing me off. I would hate to think lots of people are being prevented form riding things that are actually safe for them just because it's easier for the park to say no than for anyone to truly look into what is safe and not safe.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015 3:33 PM

Tommytheduck said:

But I do find it interesting that similar rides owned by the same company, (rules made under corporate policy) 2 of which are in the same state (rules required by state regulations) have different rider requirements.

I would suspect that they have the same policy but SFOT is featuring this policy more. The particular guy seems to have been having issues with not being allowed on rides due to his disability since 2013 so the park may have added signage as a reaction to that.

What I don't understand is it seems he'd at least be aware of the disability policy. At the Six Flags parks I worked at, there was a disability guide that listed each attraction and what exactly, as far as number of limbs, was required to ride it. This guide was also the disability pass so that they could get exit clearance to skip the line. Unless he was persistent about not wanting to skip lines and he'd been coming to the park for years, he'd likely be aware of this policy, the guide, and the exit clearance. The lawsuit makes it sound like he waited in line then was turned around in the loading area.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015 5:30 PM

Well, I think the policy was changed and he wasn't aware of the changes.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015 11:47 PM

"Officer, no one told me it now illegal to make a right turn on red at this intersection..."

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015 11:53 PM

I say let him sign a waver and ride. Hold on tight! Look kids, there goes Uncle Larry!

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, July 15, 2015 2:43 AM
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 9:23 AM

Fortunately or unfortunately, the waiver would never hold up (probably not even in TX).

The guest is presumably following the "I did it once, it must be safe" philosophy, whereas the park has good reason to know that it isn't safe, regardless of how many people had ridden previously. Everything changed once the first patron tragically exited mid-ride. We know more now, we have to think and act accordingly (aka, science).

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 11:12 AM

Tommytheduck said:
SFOT, New Texas Giant in particular, does seem to have stricter rules in place. For example, there are plenty of signs at the entrance and throughout the queue of NTG that specifically state that you need "2 natural feet." Yet Iron Rattler and Wicked Cyclone, 2 very similar rides using the same trains and restraints (I think) do not. Is this in reaction to the NTG death? Is it part of a settlement? I don't know. But I do find it interesting that similar rides owned by the same company, (rules made under corporate policy) 2 of which are in the same state (rules required by state regulations) have different rider requirements.

I was surprised in my visit to SFGAmerica to see signs about 2 natural feet on, I believe, all of the roller coasters, even those with PTC trains. (I believe it even was on the Little Dipper, which coincidentally, I got to experience a valleying when we didn't make the station... Another story.)

It will be interesting to see in the future how this all plays out, but I do think that there are some policies that are being blatantly applied without necessarily doing a full analysis.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 1:38 PM

Agreed Walt. Never been to the parks in question but at the park I spend all my time at there are plenty of coasters that I honestly don't think a person needs two natural feet to be safe on. So long as they had one full leg and foot they would not be going anywhere. Some of them one full and one partial maybe but still plenty that I'm sure could be safely ridden by someone not in posession of all their parts.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 2:18 PM

Yes, but a) we don't have access to a lot of information the parks do b) from a park liability standpoint, why risk it?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 2:37 PM

The question though is are the parks relying on information from the maufacturer that states people with specific issues cannot ride safely or are they excuding people who can ride safely because they've become paranoid about risk? Instead of assessing whether particular guests meet the requirements are they just making a generic rule that if you're missing any parts you don't ride any coasters at all no matter the coaster or the part because we're scared of being liable for something that the manufacurer says won't happen but we don't want to risk it anyway? That's what I wonder. Are people being excluded because it is genuinely not safe for them or are they being excluded because it makes the legal department's job easier?

Last edited by Paisley, Wednesday, July 15, 2015 2:39 PM
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