The California Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that clarifies an outstanding issue related to whether recreational facilities, including theme and amusement parks, could be sued for injuries suffered as a result of the inherent nature of the experience. In this case, a women was on a bumper car ride, got bumped, and broke her wrist. She sued and lost, but the appeals court reverse the decision, so the California Supreme Court had to step in:
the primary assumption of the risk doctrine had previously only been at issue in the Supreme Court in a few cases, all involving sports—football, waterskiing, competitive swimming and baseball. Not surprisingly, therefore, these prior decisions discussed the doctrine in terms of the sport at issue, for example, noting that the sponsor of a football game had no duty to protect a player from “risks inherent in the sport itself.” Because of this, some California courts, like the Court of Appeals in Nalwa, interpreted the doctrine as only applying to sports, while others interpreted the doctrine as more broadly applicable to recreational activities. Only the Supreme Court could say for sure which way was correct. (source)
The court declared that primary assumption of the risk doctrine applied to all recreation activities, not just sports. Now lawsuits over injuries will have to prove a higher standard that the operator did something to elevate the risk beyond the rides inherent nature (such improper negligence on the bumper cars leading to a more severe injury, etc).
Finally some common sense. Right now this ruling only applies in California, but it could be used in other courts as a guideline to follow.
Does this ruling make you feel more or less safe at your local theme park?