Hackemer family files wrongful death suit against Darien Lake

Posted Sunday, July 31, 2011 12:41 PM | Contributed by cpubradley

The family of James T. Hackemer, who was allowed to board the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake on July 8 despite having no legs, launched the State Supreme Court lawsuit on Friday against two companies associated with the park.

Read more from The Buffalo News.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 1:15 PM

I have to say, I am not surprised...the park employees failed at their job to follow the rules for the ride.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 1:36 PM

I knew it was only a matter of time. What happened to they had no intentions of filing a lawsuit?

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 2:39 PM

Interesting that Cellino & Barnes law firm is representing the family on this. Our Fox station that we get up here is out of Buffalo. There's probably more Cellino & Barnes commercials run than Darien Lake, Fantasy Island or Marineland commercials combined.

Despite what the family had said right after the accident, I think this lawsuit is totally justified. But if this is one of those "you pay nothing until we win your case" arrangements, which I suspect it is, Cellino & Barnes are probably going to get more out this than the family.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:01 PM

Actually just looked up the contingency limits for NY and it's capped at 30% which isn't too bad. I was reading another case recently, think it was in Florida, where a family only recieved like 35% of the settlement after legal fees.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:11 PM

Cropsey said:
Interesting that Cellino & Barnes law firm is representing the family on this. Our Fox station that we get up here is out of Buffalo. There's probably more Cellino & Barnes commercials run than Darien Lake, Fantasy Island or Marineland commercials combined.

Despite what the family had said right after the accident, I think this lawsuit is totally justified. But if this is one of those "you pay nothing until we win your case" arrangements, which I suspect it is, Cellino & Barnes are probably going to get more out this than the family.

I'll lay down a season pass at SFGADV that as soon as the news went out about what happened, there were representatives from that firm at the doorstep of the Hackemer family.

Happened to a family member who was involved in a MVA with a fatality. The other family returned home to find a car parked in their driveway with a lawyer waiting to sign them up for the big lawsuit (vol fireman kills a passenger in another car responding to a call=$$$ the lawyer promised I'm sure).

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:25 PM

You're right. Notice many of the comments on the story refer to the firm as "vultures". I don't think anyone is questioning the families decision to pursue the case, just that the firm has a sketchy rep. Cellino actually had his license to practice law suspended for six months a few years ago for miscounduct.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 4:25 PM

This is a joke. The family is being used by this law firm to sue the park over what the Sgt did. I am sorry for this guys death but whoever was taking him to the park is the one who is to be held responsible not the park. Like I stated in a previous thread, what a perfect way to dodge rider responsibility than to have him die on the ride since he had no legs to keep him in the ride in the first place. Also this law firm is nothing more than ambulance chasers.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 4:26 PM

FloridaRider said:
I knew it was only a matter of time. What happened to they had no intentions of filing a lawsuit?

This is usually the case. The family of said victim usually states they do not plan to take legal action and later change their mind most likely later having been approached by MANY law firms seeking opportunity to make some big bucks.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 4:51 PM

^ I'm sure you are right. While I do think the park didn't follow their own procedures, I'm sure the family was hounded by the lawyers out to make a quick buck. Sad.

Last edited by FloridaRider, Sunday, July 31, 2011 4:51 PM
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Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:08 PM

Personal anecdote warning.

It amazes me the veracity with which lawyers will pursue someone to get them to initiate a lawsuit. I was rear-ended, and the very next day the mailbox was stuffed with mailers from law firms within a 50mi. radius. The mailbox was continually stuffed for a good week and change afterwards, and also got several calls (thank goodness for Caller ID, never had to speak to a single one of those ambulance chasers). I will say, Nationwide (the insurer of the guy who knocked me) was actually pleasant to deal with, easier than Progressive (our insurer), and we were actually considering switching at the time.

Ok, personal anecdote over.

I won't say I'm surprised, and I think the lawsuit is actually not *wrong.* That said, I would not be the least bit surprised to find out it was pushed by this (apparently sleazy) lawyer.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:17 PM

I'm not sure I understand why everyone believes the lawsuit is justified, but any attorney actually pursuing it is automatically a bottom feeding scum bag.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:31 PM

I wouldn't say it is truly justified in the "hit them for everything they have, they broke every law in the book!" sense, but I certainly don't think this is anything like most of the other ridiculous suits we see against parks.

I think most are reflecting directly on the specific lawyer (who was suspended for misconduct, it would seem), and that it doesn't take much to believe that the family was pushed to initiate a lawsuit by any and every law firm within a not insignificant radius. The reaction from family members of not wanting to sue the park seemed rather odd considering the reaction from every other person out there that goes to the media over so much as falling and scraping their knee.* I think its within reason to think that this was pushed by one "rogue" member or the lawyer in question until they caved.

Do I personally believe what I posted above? No. Is it an at all unreasonable conclusion? I don't think so.

*And yes, that is an exaggeration.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:31 PM

When the family first said that they didn't hold the park responsible I only knew it was a matter of time before a law firm would change their minds.

I think the guy, as well as his family were irresponsible for thinking that he could safely ride a coaster, especially one with the speed and airtime like Ride Of Steel. Or maybe they just wanted to leave it up to him. They may have thought that since he lost so much at war that he deserved to do what he wanted, whether it was reckless or not. I mean, who could blame him? Maybe they thought that if the ride ops didn't have a problem with him riding then why should they?

Still, it was the ride ops that should of enforced the rules, whether his feelings would of been hurt or not. I have seen people argue up and down with ride ops (usually involving their kids and not meeting height requirements) with no concern for their safety. The rules and policies are there for a reason and it's not to be taken personally. It's for everyone's safety.

I am sure the lawyers only see $$$ and don't really care about what emotional distress the family has already gone through. I am sure they did a GREAT job of making the family think that they were only out for their interest, though. In the end the only people who win in this situation are the lawyers. It's not surprising at all.

-Tina

Last edited by coasterqueenTRN, Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:37 PM
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Sunday, July 31, 2011 7:20 PM

Jeff said:
I'm not sure I understand why everyone believes the lawsuit is justified, but any attorney actually pursuing it is automatically a bottom feeding scum bag.

I think the distinction is whether the family decided to sue and then sought out a lawyer or whether the lawyer convinced/persuaded/enticed the family to sue when they originally had no intention of doing so. Obviously still not black and white - a lawyer could explain the rights of the family to them - but that distinction is helpful to me.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 7:44 PM

Jeff said:
I'm not sure I understand why everyone believes the lawsuit is justified, but any attorney actually pursuing it is automatically a bottom feeding scum bag.

Because most lawyers are, say it with me, bottom feeding scum bags.

;-)

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:07 PM

Gosh, here's hoping you never need one!

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:28 PM

I've personally met some very nice, responsible, friendly lawyers who seemed to just want to help people.They were not what I would call bottom-feeding scum at all.

And it was up to the parks employees to make sure that he was safe to ride. They did not do their job. The park even admitted that they didn't train their staff at this attraction properly. I would have been surprised if the family of the deceased would not have eventually filed a lawsuit.

I'm not thinking of throwing the book at Darien Lake for their part in this accident, but they are at lease partially at fault.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:45 PM

It is a shame that our legal system affords "shark" law firms to seek out high profile tragedies for big settlements or jury awards.

Morey's Piers is in a similar situation for their tragic ferris wheel incident back in June. The Beasley Firm (http://www.beasleyfirm.com/) is representing the victim's family and is one of the most well known "super lawyer" law firms in Philadelphia. If you navigate their site, and read thir discussion on Amusement Park Accidents (http://www.beasleyfirm.com/areas-of-expertise/amusementpark-accident.html) it will make you sick.

Jeff said it best...

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 10:03 PM

The truth is that most attorneys do boring stuff like compose wills or write contracts. Of those that I've known personally, I can't think of any that spent significant time in a court room.

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