Court rejects Six Flag Great Adventure motion for dismissal over teen disability case

Posted Friday, January 2, 2015 10:45 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A New Jersey teenager born with missing parts on all four limbs may get his chance to convince a jury that Six Flags Great Adventure was wrong to stop him from boarding one of its thrill rides in 2012. U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano, in a ruling issued Wednesday, turned back an effort by Six Flags’ lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit Joseph Masci and his parents filed against the company in 2012.

Read more from The Star-Ledger.

Friday, January 2, 2015 11:26 AM

I'm no lawyer, though I do watch Judge Judy every day :-) but it seems to me that given the kid's history of safely riding rides at Six Flags, he's at no greater risk of an accident than a rider with two hands, two feet and a full complement of fingers and toes.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 11:42 AM

It's the usual problem where you have to come up with some standards that any minimum wage ride operator can make, even though there are likely exceptions that are perfectly safe. No one really wins in this arrangement.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 1:59 PM

As more and more parks are held liable for accidents involving patron's inability (or in some cases unwillingness) to ride safely, they're naturally going to become more reluctant to "assume everything will be OK." Then add in the fact that the people on site "making the call" are paid at or near minimum wage, and they've got way too much responsibility...so managers may be called in - again, NOT medical experts.

At what point are parks going to need physicians on staff just to determine who can and who cannot ride safely...? It just isn't feasible for parks to handle these decisions on a case-by-case basis. There needs to be some recognition on the part of the courts that the parks are being put in untenable situations.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 2:04 PM

They couldn't be just doctors... they would have to be engineers who understand human factors with regard to restraint design as well. Obviously that's never going to happen.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 2:04 PM

As long as everyone feels that should be allowed to do (or have) everything regardless of the reality of their situation or the inconvenience of accomodating them, this will continue to be a problem.

My question is, "What changed?"

Why is this suddenly an issue? My belief is that it's the sense of entitlement that we all acquired somewhere over the last couple of decades.

We live in a world where telling someone they can't ride an amusement park ride is grounds for a lawsuit. Stop and think about that.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Friday, January 2, 2015 2:09 PM
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Friday, January 2, 2015 2:13 PM

I don't think this is an issue of entitlement in this case. (Anecdote: the people I know and work with, one with one leg, another wheelchair bound, aren't like this at all.) I think this has just as much to do with a lot of "abundance of caution" that the parks engage in, after getting burned by some pretty ridiculous accidents, starting with the death at Darien Lake years ago. Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to agree that not every ride can accommodate every shape of person, but I don't at all believe that this is strictly a cultural issue of entitlement.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 2:23 PM

The only reason I'm going to disagree is the lawsuits.

Even if parks are getting overly-cautious, the lawsuit still happens.

And again...we live in a world where telling someone they can't ride and amusement park ride is seen (by some, at least) as grounds for a lawsuit.

That's just not all on the park or their policy. That's a certain level of expectation...an unrealistic - dare I say, entitled - one.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 5:13 PM

The judicial system in this country is the biggest joke ever, so these lawsuits are always a punchline.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 6:38 PM

I think Gonch and Jeff are actually both right in this discussion. There is definitely more of a sense of entitlement from that last 2 or 3 decades, and the parks are being overly cautious because of the sad "sue happy" state we live in today.

I am not an engineer, so I can't say with certainty, but I do have to disagree with you though Gator. I am not sure the kid could safely ride, not as much for the ride itself, but more regarding the evacuation of any ride. If a lift chain snapped and riders had to be able to get themselves into a standing position after releasing the restraints and then awkwardly step out of a train onto a catwalk, that could be dangerous. Besides the obvious physics that occur in being properly secured into a train based on the length of the appendage, these other "what if" scenarios have to be considered as well.

The thing that really bothers me is if this child was allowed to ride and something (heaven forbid) went terribly wrong and an accident occurred, I am guessing the parents would be suing the park for allowing him to ride. Don't misinterpret my comments as being cold or uncaring, as I am all for trying to provide accessibility to people with special needs (as I recently spent more than $200,000 of my money making my business more accessible to those with special needs), but what makes these people the experts on what is safe and unsafe?

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Friday, January 2, 2015 6:43 PM

gamerguy said:

The judicial system in this country is the biggest joke ever, so these lawsuits are always a punchline.

A joke compared to what? I absolutely agree that it has its issues, and while I'm not usually one to be a flag-waver, it works a lot better than it does in most countries.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 6:55 PM

Exactly. If you disagree just ask Amanda Knox.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 7:05 PM

SVL Fever - I don't think we disagree at all - I consider potential for evacuations a substantive part of being able to ride safely.

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Friday, January 2, 2015 7:13 PM

No argument from me on the sense of entitlement pervading the air. I work in theater box office and even there we get people who buy $35 tickets from the half-price ticket operation in Chicago and then get mad when we won't let them sit in the $99 seats unless they pay the difference. (Also the charming woman who just cut to the front of the line and told me "We paid with American Express, so we don't have to wait, do we." This got her a long stare from me, followed by "Yes. You do.")

Generally I'm in favor of businesses re-assessing policies and procedures on a regular basis. I just feel bad for this family because the kid has been riding the rides with no issues for several years.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015 11:45 AM

I think there's just too much peanut gallery speculation going on in general in all of these cases. I could make a judgement based on two paragraphs of an article and I can make some contradictory blanket statements, but I don't think any of us have enough information to say definitively that this is frivolous or not.

Blanket statement in favor of park: The park should have the final say on who can safely ride, no questions asked.

Blanket statement in favor of family: People who can legitimately do things safely are told they can't out of ignorance (or occasionally out of malice).

As someone who is in the process of adopting a special needs child, possibly one with missing limbs, I am super surprised by how much someone can do with just one hand or just one foot. The answer is pretty much "everything."

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Saturday, January 3, 2015 11:46 AM
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Saturday, January 3, 2015 10:12 PM

Fair enough Gator! :)

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Sunday, January 4, 2015 11:43 PM

I think that from the park's perspective, they would rather deny the ride and risk having the lawsuit than allow the ride and risk a person dying followed by inevitable lawsuit. The park just can't win when it comes to denying a ride because of disabilities.

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Friday, January 9, 2015 3:01 AM

Curious. Does the ADA get involved with situations like this or do they realize not everyone can be accommodated?

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