Jury awards $3.6 million in Six Flags Ohio projectile accident

Posted Monday, March 6, 2006 9:05 AM | Contributed by Gemini

A Wisconsin woman who suffered a fractured skull in 2000 when she was hit by something -- probably a rock -- while riding a roller coaster at Six Flags Ohio was awarded $3.6 million Friday. Six Flags originally offered to settle for $200,000. Jurors determined that the company was negligent because it knew people had thrown rocks at the ride before the accident occurred but did not protect riders. Six Flags sold the park in 2004 to Cedar Fair.

Read more from The Plain Dealer.

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Monday, March 6, 2006 9:17 AM
Jeff's avatar So for anyone that thinks some parks are too nuts about what they let you bring on the ride, there you go. Now you know why they're so nuts. I realize this isn't the same, but anything not tied down can certainly cause injury.
Monday, March 6, 2006 9:45 AM

While I understand that it could be some fuzzy form of negligence that Six Flags knew rocks had been thrown before and didn't completely fix the problem, I somehow can't identify with this outcome.

I can understand an amusement park being responsible for patrons' safety on rides due to the ride itself, but protecting customers from other customers seems to fall outside the realm of sanity.

What's next: the park being liable for a customer beating up another customer for whatever reason?

Finally, what kind of a person would throw the rocks in the first place? This whole this is absolutely appalling.

Monday, March 6, 2006 9:55 AM
I'm still stumped on this whole thing. While I agree that if the park knew rocks could be thrown at the ride and didn't do anything about it...But I still see this thing as strange, how many coasters out there are with in throwing distances of things. I know there are a lot more coasters that have rocks around them and I know unfortunately there are even more stupid people out there...

This story is interesting though in what the park attempted to do about it. Unfortunately the mulch got put on top of the rocks. But this leads to and opens up many other questions. Now CP knows about people getting hit with bugs on their coasters, but are they doing the right thing about it? All it takes is one person to have there eye hit with a bug and have some tragic weird Mayfly disease ;)

I still think we should tests some of these theories with a train full of lawyers.

*** This post was edited by RollerCoasterGod 3/6/2006 10:02:20 AM ***

Monday, March 6, 2006 10:19 AM
Jeff's avatar Are you kidding me? This was a slam dunk. The park was negligent. It happened frequently and they never did anything about it. And that's not ever considering all of the crap that they'd let people bring on that ride. It was ridiculous.
Monday, March 6, 2006 10:26 AM
So do you think we're going to see more vast expanses of rock-free concrete midways?

The bug-in-the-eye thing most likely falls under the "inherent risks" umbrella, but I guess the only real way to stop people throwing rocks/objects is to build another 500 Disaster Transports....

You also have to wonder how security failed to catch or identify anyone if there were repeated rock-throwing incidents. I mean, it was likely the same bunch of people. Unless the human race is more screwed up than I care to imagine, it's hard to conceive of different random groups of passers-by deciding to pick up rocks and throw them at riders.

Monday, March 6, 2006 10:28 AM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar $3.6 Million?!

They could have hired someone to stand around there for a small portion of the price to beat the tar out of those that try to throw stuff at the ride.

Police brutality? It ain't so if the police aren't doing it ;)

Sort of sounds like they were stuck between a rock and a hard place though. I mean sure they could hire someone to stand there and watch or even put up a net, but honestly if someone really wanted to throw things at the ride, they'll find a way to do it. I mean, think about it, look at the handful of rides at Cedar Point that you can get even closer to while running: Corkscrew, Raptor, Dragster, and even Millennium Force.

It's a shame we even have to worry about things like this. It's as if people don't have any respect for anything.

~Rob Willi

Monday, March 6, 2006 10:58 AM
Jeff's avatar I don't think you appreciate the setup of where it happened, panman. This was on a path on the outside of the park, in what you might equate to a "dark alley" in that people don't pass by a lot except to go to that picnic area. They had a solution: Close the picnic area. They just did it too late.

The general lack of concern was generally representative of bigger problems though. When you look back at old trip reports you'd read tales of vandalism, line jumping, disregard for safety, etc. And when you'd bring these things up to managers, they didn't care. Honestly, I don't know how they were able to even insure the place it was so poorly run.

Monday, March 6, 2006 11:00 AM
Six Flags: "You should know that there is a risk of people throwing things at you when you ride one of our coasters!"

Was this place where people throw rocks out in the open? I mean, you throw rocks at the Corkscrew at CP and you're like at one of the main thoroughfares of the park. I don't see anybody throwing anything more than once at that location. Maybe it's 'cause I'm such a fanboy.

Monday, March 6, 2006 11:57 AM
rollergator's avatar Someone throws a rock at a coaster, you take away their SP *and*, more importantly, you let them spend a night in jail...I'm not saying SF wasn't negligent, clearly they bear SOME responsibility.

The picnic area should ONLY be accessible from inside the park, and IIRC that should be do-able....no one should be on THAT road besides SF employees...

I like Rob's idea, but with a small tweak...up-charge patrons to beat the daylights out of those throwing rocks....I know *I* would pay for that... :)

Monday, March 6, 2006 12:25 PM
*** This post was edited by 3/6/2006 2:24:43 PM ***
Monday, March 6, 2006 12:39 PM
Jeff -

I have an idea of where it happened. What I was trying to say was that given that this was not the first (or even the 2nd or 3rd) time that it happened, it really is astonishing that they had no security in that area. In other words, what the hell were the management thinking? Just the presence of a guard would have prevented this.

$ 3.6 million sounds like small amount compared to what really amounts to criminal negligence on the part of the park. IMHO there should be jailtime for the manager(s) who were responsible for that area at the time. Maybe you can't stop some ignorant bastard from throwing a rock the first time, but you sure as heck could the 2nd time.

The fact that this was a repeated occurrance that there was little/no action on from management makes you really wonder about what *else* was unsafe in the park. I know after my first visit to SFWOA I vowed never to go again.

Rocks at 60mph are not funny...I had one chucked at my car back in South Africa in 1993 while I was on a highway.

Monday, March 6, 2006 5:16 PM
The ride in question is butted up against a chain link fence. I think it's about a 12' fence, and a walkway runs between the fence and the adjacent road. Oddly enough, the park's picnic area was previously on the other side of the ride, inside the park fence, between the Villain and the Double Loop, and got moved outside when Six Flags decided that they didn't want to allow picnics inside the park anymore.

It sounds to me like the jury awarded $1.2 million to the plaintiff for her injuries and then assessed Six Flags a $2.4 million fine for offering a pathalogically idiotic defense.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, March 6, 2006 5:23 PM
UGH. That just infuriates me how some people can be so idiotic and ignorant of the consequences from their throwing rocks at other people on a ride. These are the morons that should be paying up.
Monday, March 6, 2006 5:36 PM
For some of you who are apalled at the human race and throwing rocks, consider some things:

First, what about other less-than-stellar behaviors? Like spitting from a Top Spin when it's hanging you straight down (which invariably lands on other riders). Or, spitting/tossing coins/gum from cable-car type rides. Although not quite as grave in scope as tossing a rock at a moving roller coaster, teens don't view it as such. They view it as a small act of mischief that will make someone else slightly mad. Not a serious action that could cause severe injury or even death.

Most likely, the culprits of said rock-hurling are in their teens. Teenagers don't (always) have an encompassing understanding of their actions. That's why they are considered "minors" and need permission slips from parents who (theoretically) are thinking properly. A teenager thinks "gee, this will be funny to throw rocks at the coaster as it passes. The rock will be a little annoyance, and this will be a cute little prank". They don't realize that the coaster is going 60mph and will do serious damage.

Case in point (on not grasping the entirety of the situation): Either 1 or 2 years ago (I forget exactly) during the winter, a 14-year-old decided to throw a chunk of ice from an overpass onto a highway in my area. The kid thought that it would either shatter on the road in front of a car, or hit and bounce off a windshield, causing a little mischief and possibly a small fender bender, but nothing serious. What happened was that the ice chunk shattered and went through the windshield of a minivan, killing the poor woman who was in the passenger seat (and assorted cuts/scrapes from glass to the driver).

As for the park and their liability, I think that 3.6million is a bit steep.. however I *do* feel that they are responsible as well. Was there even so much as a sign prohibiting objects from being thrown in that area? What about surveillance cameras (if nothing else, they'd be able to find the person who threw the rock) or, as mentioned above, a security guard or net.

Monday, March 6, 2006 5:43 PM
People are stupid. End of story. I mean seriously would you want rocks thrown at you? It could of been anyone and when a coaster is moving anywhere from 30 mph or above, its dangerous. It is amazing how that park ran for what , 3 years? I am glad the person got rewarded, although i think they could of settled for less, although if there was any injuries not sure about that.
Monday, March 6, 2006 5:48 PM
What, now we need a sign to prohibit people throwing objects at a coaster? There's no sign at my local mall to say I shouldn't set fire to the tables in the foodcourt either....

I'm sorry, I think the $2.4 million punitive damages are right in line with the lack action on this issue. I doubt they would have been as high if there had been no prior rock-throwing activity. This was a problem the park & management KNEW about and refused to take action on, or (at the very least) failed to respond adequately to. They're lucky the victim "only" suffered a fracture skull, and was not blinded or killed.

Monday, March 6, 2006 5:49 PM

Say John owns a house in a “bad” neighborhood. A neighborhood that could be found in many urban areas in this country (We have a few here in Vegas)! Neighborhoods where drive-by shootings have happened time-to-time…

Now say Lisa is leaving John’s house one day and unfortunately gets shot in a drive-by shooting. Is John negligent for not putting up a bulletproof fence?

…Say this is not John’s home…but John’s business. Maybe a barbershop for example…
Lisa walks out of John’s barbershop and is shot in a drive-by…

Is John negligent? Or are the people who fired the shot guilty?

As much as I disliked the management at the old SF Ohio, I’m not sure I agree with the ruling. Seems to me that somebody had bad luck and was unable to catch the guilty party. As is common in jury decisions…somebody had to pay. Six Flags never had a chance…they were the big, bad, mean, and rich company.

Meanwhile somebody threw a rock/cell phone (?) at The Villian and permanently injured a person. They’ve paid nothing and served no time!

Six Flags is on the hook for millions…seems like justice to me??? And you wonder why some of us have a problem with torts…

Monday, March 6, 2006 5:55 PM
dannerman: I don't think that 3.6million was too high at all. (Not that I'm saying that this particular woman derserved that much for her troubles either... I don't know the particulars of the case, so I'm not really commenting from that point of view). The courts had to provide SF with enough negative incentive to NEVER LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN. That's where the money goes to... Making sure that SF makes solving this problem not just in this park, but preventing it from happening at any of their other parks (And if you think that BEC, Palace, CP, Disney and Universal haven't double checked their areas, I think you'd be mistaken).
Monday, March 6, 2006 6:20 PM
Bigger issue…

Where does park responsibility end and personal responsibility begin?

For example…had the park put up a fence to stop this problem…would this had absolved them from further liability? What if somebody stuck a rock in their pocket and threw it from the front seat to the back and struck an innocent? Is the park at fault? Or should they know about this and frisk everybody? …Strip search maybe? Imagine the civil suits on that one?? Are parks responsible for protecting us from every possible calamity? If so…shutting the doors seems the socially responsible thing to do.

I do not pretend to have the answer. I just know that there is no end in sight. For many of you, it seems the mere act of being a business/corporation makes you guilty. Six Flags might have been wrong…I do not know the details. But I have trouble believing they were 2 million plus (punative portion) guilty. Seems excessive…

I certainly respect anybody who wants to get involved in amusement industries these days. The liability has got to be astronomical. It is bad enough when a business has to worry about their own actions. It is even worse when a business has now got to become liable for the acts of criminals perpetrating their crimes on the business property. My mental make-up is such that I can only see the criminal as the guilty party. While I understand there may be a negligent behavior on Six Flags behalf, I cannot understand how anybody could reasonably put a dollar figure on it. Six Flags did not throw the rock! A criminal did!

Only a few posters seem to understand that there is a criminal out there who got away with this and Six Flags paid the burden. There is something wrong with this scenario from my perspective.


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