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Amusement parks’ liability for injuries is limited, court rules

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The California Supreme Court on Monday limited the liability of amusement parks, ruling 6-1 that riders of bumper cars and similar attractions cannot sue for injuries that are inherent to the rides.

“A small degree of risk inevitably accompanies the thrill of speeding through curves and loops, defying gravity or, in bumper cars, engaging in the mock violence of low-speed collisions,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the majority. “Those who voluntarily join in these activities also voluntarily take on their minor inherent risks.”

The court’s decision extended a doctrine that limits liability for inherently risky activity associated with sports. The decision extends a doctrine that involved sports like football and skiing and certain forms of recreation.

Amusement parks will continue to be required to use the utmost care on thrill rides such as roller coasters, where riders surrender control to the operator. The court distinguished bumper cars from roller coasters, noting the former rely on driver participation and inherently involve collisions.

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The case was brought by a woman who broke her wrist on a bumper car at California’s Great America park in the Bay Area. Rejecting her lawsuit, the court said amusement parks were required only “not to unreasonably increase the risk of injury” inherent in such rides.

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-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco


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