Six Flags Over Georgia appeals $35 million verdict holding park responsible for assault outside of park

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Lawyers for Six Flags Over Georgia are asking the Georgia Court of Appeals to toss a $35 million verdict awarded in 2013 by a Cobb County jury to a man who was attacked by a gang in 2007 as he waited for a bus outside the theme park. Six Flags says the incident occurred too far away from its property and was not something the park could no have foreseen.

Read more from Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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"The jury held the individual defendants responsible for 8 percent of the award with the remaining 32.2 million levied against the theme park."

Just to actually do the beating and damage and you are 8% own or are next to the property where it happened and you are 92% responsible.

Jeff's avatar

This is completely bizarre. I don't know how you hold a company accountable for something individuals do after leaving your property. Doesn't make sense.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

slithernoggin's avatar

And by persons who had been threatening others in the park, and chose this victim randomly.

My Judge Judy law degree has lapsed.... could the jury have been bound by the lawsuit, with the plaintiff focusing on the company that could pay over a $35 million windfall rather than the perpetrators of the assault?

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

So what does a park do about gangs? Take a very active and hard approach? They absolutely should for the safety of their guests, but at the same time word getting around that there's gang related activity at Six Flags Over Georgia creates problems for the park's image. The residents in a city the size of Atlanta are well aware there's a gang/thug culture out there, but the park needs and wants to attract the people from Sandy Springs, Roswell, and Alpharetta as well. Every arrest made from the park goes on record and enough of those stories lead to a bad reputation for the park.

I'm not blaming the park for this incident, or defending their actions either, but in hindsight it's clear they didn't 'do enough'. The article states that the young men had been busy harassing patrons while inside the park. Twice. And park security got involved but took no steps to call the real law or remove the perps from the park. And didn't one of the fellows work at the park? They "knew" him. So this is what the jury sees- the park missed the chance to make sure that these guys and the victim would never cross paths. If they had been gone the random guy would've caught the bus and gotten home safely. The park had the chance to avoid this situation for the victim and for whatever reason blew it. And Slith is right. The jury is moved by a victim with brain damage acquired through no fault of his own, certainly. Somebody's gotta pay this poor guy and the park carries around that kind of cash while the thug never will.

Once again, I'm not taking sides here but I bet this is what happened to lead to this ridiculous verdict. I'd also bet that the 35 mil eventually gets tossed in favor of a more reasonable amount. Outrageous awards like this often do.

How ridiculous is this amount though? Not saying I agree, but depending on the length of hospital stay, the severity of the injuries, and the severity of the brain damage, the costs and medical bills for this man might already be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. If he's severely brain damaged, it affects his ability to earn a living, and the damage could also cause further medical complications down the road. He may need psych treatment as well for the trauma. He could even have restrictions on activity due to the risk of further brain injury, affecting his quality of life in other ways. The article doesn't really go into any of these things, but this guy's life may be truly ruined because of what these asshats did to him, and MAYBE it could have been prevented. Just playing devil's advocate here.

What I don't understand though is how, even if Six Flags kicked these guys out of the park, how this gentleman's injuries could have been avoided. Then the punks would have been REALLY mad and maybe would have waited for him and killed him. The only way SF could have prevented this was to call the cops, it seems, and what would they tell the police? "Come get these kids because they were talking trash?" I fail to see how Six Flags could have honestly done much more, and I definitely don't see how they should be paying a 35 million dollar lawsuit as a result of off property violence.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

Well, the point of my theory as to how anyone (a jury) might hold the park responsible is that if the park had dealt with the offenders when they should have it wouldn't have happened. Yes, they may have have been really extra mad and picked a different random victim off a different park bench. Then again maybe they wouldn't have. But that doesn't matter for this case. The sure thing is that the perps left the park at the right time, allowing them to encounter the guy at the bus stop. He hadn't been sitting there all day waiting for them to show up, he had just left the park probably around the same time they did. It was chance, but a chance that likely wouldn't have happened if the park had done something, anything with them but let them go.

We can also choose to look at it this way- fate is strange. And if any other thing at all had happened to the victim or the guys along the way it might've ruined this chance encounter as well. (If the guys hadn't stopped to talk to a girl they wouldn't have been outside when they were... If the guy hadn't stopped for a coke he might've caught the earlier bus, etc...) Which is why I think it's a stretch to hold the park liable here.

As for the amount, you make a good point. With us not knowing the extent of the injuries and damages we can say it's possible that 35 million might be just enough to make sure the victim is cared for and assisted from age 19 to age 80. But someone knows what the brain damage is and I'm sure it was thoroughly examined and picked apart by all parties involved. I still say the 35 won't hold, I guess we'll see.

Jeff's avatar

What are they supposed to do? Escort every guest home?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

sws's avatar

The problem with the article cited above is that it doesn't give any of the details of the incident. Perhaps since it happened in 2007, those details weren't of interest to that author. This didn't make any sense to me, so I did a quick google search and include the following link for details:

Please note that the above citation comes from the victim's lawyers, so interpret it accordingly.

The most important point is that the assailants were employees of the Six Flag park who were reported gang members and had been harassing other guests in the park while on the job. They then assaulted a random victim with brass knuckles which they had brought with them to work. (I hope Disney's changing employee dress code will not include tolerating brass knuckles at work - although that would make It's a Small World much more interesting.) It would seem that these employees had previous altercations before this random act of violence.

The young victim was in a coma for a week and suffered life-changing traumatic brain injury. There are a lot of other interesting points brought up in the article, which I'll let you read yourself.

I generally do not like personal injury lawyers/cases, but this one looks really bad for Six Flags.

Slither, what would Judge Judy say about this one?

slithernoggin's avatar

Criminy. Totally missed that the assailants here were employees of the park. Thank you for pointing that out. If employees of the park are assaulting people in or near the park and the park knows the assailants are gang members with a history.... yeah, the park bears some of the responsibility.

I suspect Judge Judy would tell the lawyers for the park to "Zip it!"

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

I pointed it out in my first post- the park knew this guy.(s) Which kind of makes it particularly bad.

And no, they're not supposed to escort every guess home. But I'm sure the driving point was the park had some control, no matter how far fetched, over whether or not there was a safe environment at (and around) the park that day. They could've and should've gotten rid of the bad element before any of this had a chance to happen. At any rate, that's what the jury saw when faced with the victim's injuries and the poor outlook for his future.

I agree with SWS. The park bears some responsibility since they knew that the employees were known gang members and was assaulting other guests besides the one injured. The cops should have been called in and had the employees and rest of the gang arrested before this guy got injured n the first place.

Yeah, that's a horse of a different color for sure. I'm at a loss to explain why Six Flags does not seem to address issues like this and others before they happen instead of after. If these employees were known gang members, tagging their lockers and attacking security guards and whatnot, why were these guys even allowed in the park, let alone still being permitted to work there?

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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