Court overturns $2.5 million award in Six Flags America discrimination suit

Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2004 8:17 AM | Contributed by supermandl

The Maryland high court overturned a judgement against Six Flags America in a $2.5 million discrimination suit, saying the plaintiffs did not present any evidence backing up charges of assault, battery, false imprisonment and negligent supervision.

Read more from WMAR/Baltimore.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 8:20 AM
Wow, assuming for a moment that the park was guilty of everything the suit alleged, that's a pretty insane award. People who have lost limbs in accidents have been paid less.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 8:42 AM
Something I am trying to figure out.

The family was told their 4 year old was not tall enough to ride Typhoon Sea Caoster... and then spend 10 minutes refusing to get out of the boat.

IF the child was not tall enough to ride, why was the family even in the boat to begin with? Shouldn't the measuring taken place before the family entered the boat? (or could it be that some members had entered and then the child was measured?)

Oh well, doesn't really matter I suppose.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 9:18 AM
If you want to read more about the incident, you can read the court case on the website:

http://www.courts.state.md.us/opinions/coa/2004/65a03.pdf

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 9:18 AM
The bottom line is that the cost of defending lawsuits like these, even when they are eventually overturned, can run into millions of dollars a year for a company the size of Six Flags. Even when the ruling is reversed, tens of thousands of dollars are spent defending the case and then appealing the decisions.Think about how many rides could be built if frivolous lawsuits like these were not even entertained by the courts.
*** This post was edited by DJZac 5/18/2004 9:19:50 AM ***
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 10:09 AM
I started to read that court case, but my eyes started to glaze over with all of that legal mumbo-jumbo. I could say something very politically incorrect here concerning how race was brought into question here, but I won't.

But am I missing something here... shouldn't the kids be measured BEFORE anyone enters the boat?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 10:50 AM
Next thing you know someone will be suing Cedar Point because they were able to ride Millennium Force last year, and discriminated against this year even though their height and weight is exactly the same.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 11:07 AM
SLFake, I think your comment about race is the whole reason why the case was sent back to the county courts.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 12:45 PM
I'm not going to read the case, but the way the news article read, there was no evidence that the incident was racially motivated. I've only been to SFA once, but it appeared to be a rather diverse employee base. Hard time imagining racism would be an issue there.

Then again, some schools in the south actually have segregated proms...

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 12:55 PM
The case says:"A jury’s verdict in favor of plaintiffs/Respondents is reversed because of a significant probability that the verdict was influenced by improper and irrelevant insinuations by their attorneys and certain of their witnesses of racial discrimination by allegedemployees of the corporate defendant."This is the reason why it is being sent back to the county courts.

The case also goes on to say:

"A different ride attendant approached Respondents, who had seated themselves in one of the ride’s boats. The second ride attendant explained to Respondents that he believed that Shaniqua was not tall enough to go on the ride, and that the ride would not be restarted until
she left the boat. Respondents refused to leave the boat, insisting that Shaniqua be allowed to ride. Respondents claimed they had seen “white children”2 smaller than Shaniqua allowed on the ride without being stopped by park attendants and, therefore, Shaniqua should be allowed to ride.3 A standoff ensued, during which several additional park employees, including managers and security personnel, arrived on the scene."

A footnote goes even further and says "Later, after the ride had been restarted, park employees testified they measured allof the child patrons stranded on the ride during the standoff. There were no children shorter
than forty-six inches on the ride."

*** This post was edited by coasterguts 5/18/2004 1:07:53 PM ***

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 1:56 PM
If I'm not mistaken the height requirement for TSC is 48 inches minimum in order to ride.

From what I read of the transcripts taken from a different link it appears that the plaintiffs are at fault here....not the ride ops & it is even stated that while exiting the boat one of the plaintiffs threw a punch at the ride attendant,now of course after these actions were taken what did you expect the park to do?

They weren't going to just sit back & allow one of their employees to be assaulted by a park patron especially over such a trivial manner as a member of their party not being able to ride are they?

What I find to be a big problem is that this incident happened about 5 years ago....now why is it that after all this time they are still arguing this case in court? the plaintiff's child is certainly old enough now to safely ride the attraction but of course the family would in all likelyhood never visit the park,or for that matter even be allowed on the property ever again & as for their charges of public embarassment & humiliation at being led away in cuffs well they've got no one but themselves to blame for that.

In addition to the embarassment of the situation the plaintiff's ended up ruining what otherwise could've been a day of fun & enjoyment for themselves & their kids when instead of fighting with the ops over not being allowed on one ride they could've just patronized the other attractions in the park that day instead & had a good time without incident.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 3:37 PM
BatwingFan, this suit first was tried on October 29, 2001 (see page 9 -numbered as 7 - in the PDF above)
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 4:35 PM
Both SFA's park staff and patrons are from very diverse ethnic backgrounds. Without any numbers, I would say that the operating staff is about 1/2 white, 1/2 black with a smattering of other racial groups. The customers are about the same mixture.

Unfortunately, almost all of us have seen this type of incident in a less extreme form. A child who does not meet the height requirements is stopped by the operator from riding. The parents then make a major issue out of the refusal to board the child. Often the child is not even close to the minimum height. I've seen ride operation held up a number of times due to this problem. In one or two cases, I have seen the situation become verbally hot, though never with the possible assault mentioned in this case. As we all know, minimum heights are an important safety issue.

Note: The one time that I saw park security called due to an incident at a loading station was due to a lost hat. The patron refused to leave the unloading platform, insisting that the park should stop the coaster to recover the hat that had been lost. Of course there was a sign in the boarding area clearly saying that hats should not be worn. After a heated argument that held up the ride for 10 minutes or so the patron finally left.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 6:33 PM
Oh yeah, it's deep. Coming from a ride operator/attendant, you wouldn't believe some of the crap that we have to go through with when it comes to height restrictions. I work at a ride where the limit is 54 inches which as most of us know isn't short. Just the other week we had about 20-25 discrepancies within minutes of each other, and this was by far the worst day that I have seen during my past four seasons at the park. It's not uncommon for parents to curse and throw hissy fits in front of everyone, not to mention their own children, just because they are too short to ride. We've recieved middle fingers, obscenities, obscenities in foreign languages (I kid you not)... It's actually rare to come across a parent that actually cares about their child's safety. I guess my whole point is that this happens all of the time, at least at my home park, and guests will do whatever and say whatever in order to try to get their way and when they don't they show their a**es. Any embarassment is self inflicted and they deserve every ounce of it. I'm somewhat surprised that these people don't play the race card more often.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 7:04 PM
To my knowledge, there are segregated proms because minority races CHOOSE to have a separate prom. There is a big difference between this minority endorsed activity and racist activities of years past. There certainly is not a school that has endorsed a separate WHITE prom is there? Do you have a link or any evidence for such an inflammatory and offensive statement? I'll hop on board with you and degrade those who would dare endorse separate proms based upon race. I just do not believe in today’s day and age that we have organized schools endorsing separate WHITE proms. I find it absurd to blame a whole segment of the population (South) for what a few people may have done. This is specifically offensive IF it was the minority group itself organized and endorsed the activity (prom) that you appear to be chastising the South for. How can they control what a minority group decides to do in the name of race?

The fact that so many want to introduce race into everything is the reason we have lawsuits like this one. I find this very sad on many fronts.

P.S. Maybe you were not trying to flame. It is hard to tell with written words. If you were not then I appologize. But the context appears to indicate that you think that racism could NOT exist in the North (SFA) but runs rampant in the South. Is this what you mean? I assume there are a lot of southerners that would be offended. I've been to SFOG quite a bit and they too seem to have a diverse staffing and patronage. Anybody think this Georgia park practices racism?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 7:20 PM
I eat my words. Ran a Google for "white only proms" and came across this!
http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/05/02/separate.proms.ap/

Not government or school endorsed, but definitely student and parent endorsed in 2003! In Georgia nonetheless!

Unbelievable!


*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 5/18/2004 7:24:45 PM ***

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 8:26 PM
As someone who has SFA as his home park, I must say that this area is neither fish nor fowl as far as North/South. The only reason Maryland didn't secede during the Civil War is because Lincoln never let the matter come to a vote, violating all kinds of constitutional protections regarding Maryland's citizens. Also anyone who actually lives here could tell you that racism is still an issue in Maryland, and in Prince Georges County in particular. The police in the coujnty have been subject to many suits for racism-type problems.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 9:40 PM
BATWING FAN Said:
"If I'm not mistaken the height requirement for TSC is 48 inches minimum in order to ride."

According to Six Flags' website, TSC has a minimum height requirement of 42 inches:
http://www.sixflags.com/parks/america/Rides/typhoon.html

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004 9:41 PM
I don't think I'll ever forget the bad blowout I had with a parent and her child over trying to ride Krypton Comet (Chance Chaos) last year at SFA. She insisted that her child had ridden the ride before (as had many others who were too small). Even after repeatedly telling her that her son was too small, she still tried to get on the ride. It clearly states on the operator's panel what the height limit is, as well as the sign leading into the queue. Some people even tried to accuse the park of changing the height limit for the 2003 season, which is a boldface lie, as I mentioned earlier, Chance makes the height limit for the ride, not the park. I came to the conclusion after several of these accusations that some of the other ride ops were being extremely lax about checking height limits.

I'm sorry, but I don't think most four-year olds would match the height limit on TSC. The reason behind this I believe is because of the last steep drop.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004 12:13 AM
This aspect of America is really disgusting. I can't stand people who make ridiculous lawsuits out of things that were their own fault. Don't these people understand that getting 2.5 million from a company hurts others in the process? What if SF has to lay off a couple extra workers because of the lawsuit? This suit disgusts me almost as much as the people suing Mcdonalds for making them fat. People need to take the blame for their own mistakes, not sue people. If your kid isn't tall enough to ride, that doesn't make the park racist, end of story.
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