Attorney for accused Extreme World worker rejects plea agreement

Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:07 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The attorney for a man charged with recklessly dropping a girl 10 stories at a Lake Delton amusement park announced Monday they will not accept a plea agreement and he will argue the judge should dismiss the charges. Charles Carnell was charged with felony first-degree reckless injury when 13-year-old Teagan Marti dropped 100 feet from an Extreme World ride he was operating.

Read more from The Portage Daily Register.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:57 AM

Yeah, we already established that saying 'minimum wage' was a nice way of saying "unskilled, meaningless, dead end jobs" - so no, the pay itself doesn't act as a qualifier, but rather a descriptive term for a certain type of job.

Sometimes I forget that the people on this site are among the most literal in the world. This was one of those times.

With that said...

No, I wouldn't expect the Cinnabon employee to face criminal charges for accidentally putting nuts in your mouth.

Making a mistake at a crap-ass job is not a crime.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:30 AM

Aamilj said:

But as I stated in my intial post. They are using the sympathy defense that works well for negligent parents that fry their kids in cars. We feel bad, so typically charges are not even brought. I am shocked they were in this case.

The only way these 2 scenarios would be the same is if it were possible to accidentally lock your kids in a car on a hot day. But since it is not, the comparison isn't even close to valid.

This is more akin to a driver hitting the gas when they intended to hit the brake and crashing into the car in front of them. Are they at fault? Sure, but they shouldn't be criminally responsible for making a mistake.

Criminal charges should be reserved for those who willfully harm others, either through direct action or through willful negligence (i.e. intentionally deciding not to do maintenance on a ride). This case falls into neither of those categories.

Last edited by Juggalotus, Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:31 AM
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Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:13 PM

I have given up on trying to follow the legal world so I honestly do not know the answer to this. In the gas/brake example above, if the driver hits and injures (or kills if it makes a difference in the outcome) a pedestrian what penalty does the driver face? Does this trigger a criminal charge?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:02 PM

did this girl or any member of her family sign a waiver for her to do this? If not, then she or her parents should bear no legal fault on this

I agree with this, and I hope I wasn't coming across as saying the parents were legally at fault (Though I do think they are still partially responsible because they let their child do this).

So how does the girl bear any blame at all for the accident?

In this instance, I would put the responsibility on her parents. I don't think 'blame' is really the right word, but I do think the parents are party responsible for agreeing to let their daughter do this. My parents would never have allowed me to do this. I wanted to bungee jump at Myrtle Beach for years (and that is from a tower that had proper safety equipement and an airbag), but they wouldn't let me.

Assuming she followed the posted directions as well as the verbal instructions that she was given I would say that she respected the ride.

You can do everything in your power to prevent something, but when you are taking part in an activity that is inherently dangerous (like skydiving, being dropped 100 feet, bungee jumping, racing your car, etc) it doesn't matter. My point was that we bear some responsibility for our actions.

Getting on a ride, or driving normally in a car, we have the expectation that the likleyhood of having an accident is lowered because there are safety backups in place. If you race your car, or jump off/out of anything and are 100% at the mercy of forces you can't control, that is dangerous. There aren't enough safety backups that can keep you safe.

If the driver hits and injures [or kills]... a pedestrian what penalty does the driver face? Does this trigger a criminal charge?

It isn't that black and white. Someone in a car can be driving along doing everything they're supposed to do and a pedestrian can walk out in front of them and depending on the circumstances the pedestrian could get hurt. Should that person be criminally charged?

Maybe the person 'blanked out' for a second and didn't notice the person step off the curb. Were they criminally negligent?

It's not the same as when someone is distracted by texting, loud music, half asleep, impared, and hits someone. Accidents happen. It's the circumstances surrounding the accident that determine if charges should be filed.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:35 PM

There are several ways this could have been avoided.

If the builder had put a sensor to not let the drop happen early.

(if that sensor breaks then someone has to climb leg to fix)

Dual consoles at the ride that take two people to push button

(that means 2 salaries making the upcharge more)

If the company running the park rotated personal so it did not become routine for you to drop people on this ride.

When was the last time the burger cook at a burger joint got charged for undercooking a burger.(even if someone got sick and died)

I am sorry she got hurt but I do not think it was a crime.

Operating under the influance is a crime but as already pointed out that can't be proven anymore.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 6:01 PM

Jeff said:

Break Trims said:
Quick question, did this girl or any member of her family sign a waiver for her to do this? If not, then she or her parents should bear no legal fault on this.

You don't have to be a lawyer to understand that would have nothing to do with it. No one participates is expected to have the expertise to operate the attraction or prevent their own death.

Well, a lot of recreational activities do make participants sign waivers, and those waivers typically shield from liability the negligence of workers. Next time you go skiing, you'll notice that the waiver not only absolves the company from injuries related to the skier's lack of experience, but also the negligent actions of its employees.

Bungee jumping outfits typically use similar waiver language, and this ride might be somewhat congruent to that. It's an entirely different ball of wax to argue whether liability waivers are against public policy in general, but it certainly hasn't prevented courts from finding them enforceable.

One thing that typically cannot be waived, however, is injury due to the gross negligence of an employee. Obviously, that's a term of art, and something over which opposing lawyers would argue and kill many trees.

In this case, had there been a waiver, it might very well be evident that the employee acted in gross negligence, and no waiver could be enforced. It would be certain, however, that the existence of a waiver would be something that a defese lawyer would glom onto, and might even form the basis of a summary judgment motion, even if that motion were ultimately denied. Another issue would be the girl's age, and whether she could legally enter such a contract. I see kids under 18 skiing, and presumably they've signed waivers, so who knows.

I'm certainly not arguing with your general premise, and I generally come down on the anti-waiver side of the argument, but had there been a waiver in this case, it would have definitely been a factor.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 7:05 PM

You can make all of the apple-orange comparisons you want, or cite fringe cases, but you'd still be wrong. There's typically a waiver on theme park tickets too, and you don't have to pay much attention to see that people who get injured at parks get settlements every time.

My point stands, that it's not reasonable for a consumer to have any knowledge about the mechanical or safety systems for a ride, or know what the protocol is for operating it. It's completely reasonable to assume that the machine and the people operating it are not going to kill or hurt you, and that implication has historically overridden any waiver.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 7:29 PM

There's a big difference between waivers that are printed on the backs of tickets, or signs posted that claim no responsibility, and actual signed/dated/witnessed waivers, like the ones that you find at ski resorts and whitewater rafting outfitters. The former are not very enforceable, for the reasons you point out, but the latter are moreso. I've been involved in litigation revolving around that latter type of waiver in a recreational activity (albeit not amusement park-related), and it definitely was a contested legal issue in the case.

As there was no such waiver here, I'm sorry I brought this hypothetical up, as it's rapidly getting irrelevant. I whole-heartedly agree that no person who is in an average amusement park should have any knowledge of the way the rides operate, and assumes no risk if something goes wrong. If a client came through my door who had been injured by a ride's operation, I'd consider it a chip-shot case, minus any irresponsible riding on his/her part. It just seemed to me that this attraction kind of straddled the line between amusement park attraction, and something more approaching bungee jumping or the like.

The fact that this park settled so quickly is definitely evidence that their legal team didn't feel that any assumption of the risk defense applied. But if I were the defense attorney, the first thing I'd ask is if a written waiver had been signed.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:14 PM

I work for a business where we once developed a liability waiver for participants in a certain activity to sign. It was not quite as risky as the one in question in this topic, but there was some risk involved. Our attorneys recommended doing so, but said, in the end, it would offer us very little protection in the case of a serious accident or injury. Take that for what it's worth, but that's my experience with waivers.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:52 PM

And my suspicion is that any lawyer worth their JD would probably tell you the same thing. Think about it, if a waiver really removed liability, there would be little to no incentive for the operator to worry about safety. "Sorry I nearly killed your daughter, but you signed this thing that said you wouldn't sue me if i did." That would never fly. There are far too many implied and reasonable expectations about what both parties' responsibilities are.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:32 PM

Shades said:
I have given up on trying to follow the legal world so I honestly do not know the answer to this. In the gas/brake example above, if the driver hits and injures (or kills if it makes a difference in the outcome) a pedestrian what penalty does the driver face? Does this trigger a criminal charge?

Yes, it is called vehicular homicide.

Here is a very interesting story that happened in Minnesota. A man was driving a Toyota a few years ago. He swore he hit the brakes, but instead his car sped up and struck another car killing three people. The prosecution convinced a jury that the only logical explanation was that he must have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brakes, causing the crash. He was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison. This happened before the recall of Toyota cars due to faulty acceleration. After the problems with Toyotas became public, his car was re-examined. There was evidence he had hit the brakes. His conviction was over-turned, however he had already spent a couple of years in prison.

Last edited by sws, Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:40 PM
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Saturday, October 30, 2010 9:54 AM

Vehicular homicide, or Vehicular manslaughter? Those are 2 very different things. I've always been under the impression that vehicular homicide involved intent to kill.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 12:43 PM

What any of us believe is moot. The prosecutor obviously believes that this kid comitted a criminal act. I tend to agree with the prosecutor while simutaneously feeling a little bad that the "deadbeat (or whatever Gonch called him)" finds himself in need of some good lawyering to avoid bars.

Unless I am mistaken, was it not said somewhere that this ride passed all state inspections? Assuming that this is true, hard to see how the ride manufacturer is liable. Maybe the State is? I could see the park being negligent (civil vs criminal?) for hiring a dope smoking shmuck and putting him in control of a life and death situation. Should they not reasonably have some sort of "standards" for such a job? And as I stated earlier, this guy certainly seems to have been criminally negligent. There is at least a case/argument to be made. Maybe he will be found not guilty? Who knows?

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 2:47 PM

Aamilj said:
And as I stated earlier, this guy certainly seems to have been criminally negligent.

Aamilj said:What any of us believe is moot...

That about sums it up.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 3:33 PM

Exactly. Besides, something did happen, and the prosecutor is doing their job by filing charges. But thankfully that isn't the end of it. In the end, whatever is decided upon by the judge is what matters. And even then, things could change.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 6:05 PM

Aamilj said:
I could see the park being negligent (civil vs criminal?) for hiring a dope smoking shmuck and putting him in control of a life and death situation. Should they not reasonably have some sort of "standards" for such a job?

That leads me to ask if the park requires employee drug testing. Both parks that I have worked for, Cedar Point and Universal, required a drug test before allowing employees to work for them, and a lot of businesses that I have worked for have required drug tests. If Extreme World doesn't drug test, should they be considered to be at fault as well?

If they require drug testing for employment, that guy should be fired, because he admitted taking illegal drugs. If they don't require drug testing, they should consider changing that. People who operate amusement rides should not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol...

In my opinion, anyways.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 7:34 PM

When was it proven that drugs played a role in the accident?

Aamilj said:
Unless I am mistaken, was it not said somewhere that this ride passed all state inspections? Assuming that this is true, hard to see how the ride manufacturer is liable.

Are you suggesting that once a ride passes inspection it can no longer malfunction? Really? The ride's inspection pass is completely irrelevant to the situation. The only indisputable fact of this case at this time is that the ride malfunctioned. It did not rise to the height it was required to be in order for the safety net to be engaged. There's no question of that fact.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010 10:51 PM

It wasn't, Carrie. It is of my opinion that amusement parks shouldn't hire people who are in the habit of taking recreational drugs for the ride operator position. This guy takes recreational drugs. He's a ride operator. I just asking out loud if Extreme World did anything to prevent hiring a druggie to be a ride operator.

I'm not even saying that drugs were involved with this accident. We don't know when the guy last smoked up because Police didn't do a test. Maybe Extreme World should consider drug testing their employees randomly. They may find that it's more of a problem than they think, and if they don't, they have peace of mind and backup that they do all that they can to make sure the rides are operated safely.

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Monday, November 1, 2010 9:57 AM

I'd be willing to bet that the percentage of ride operators who buckled all of us into rides this season that had THC in their systems would surprise many of you.

I realize it's fun in a sort of after-school special way to demonize this guy for having smoked pot earlier, but until it's shown to have had an effect on his behavior at the critical time, it's just one of many facts in this sad situation.

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Monday, November 1, 2010 10:42 AM

Well said.

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