State law may limit liability in fatal thrill ride accident

A fatal accident at the Ohio State Fair this summer has shaken the public's faith in the safety of amusement park rides. Now, legal analysis of this tragic case may shake the public's faith in justice.

One person was killed and seven more injured in July when a gondola arm on the Fire Ball ride broke apart while passengers were seated on the spinning ride. Investigators said the cause was excessive corrosion on one of the metal beams that supported the ride.

Under Ohio law, those who have been injured due to the negligence of another party may recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. In the case of a fatal injury, immediate family members may be able to recover compensation through a similar legal action known as a wrongful death lawsuit.

In a terrible accident such as this one, there may be multiple parties that could be held liable for damages. Perhaps the most obvious candidate in this case would be the manufacturer of the ride. However, legal analysts say that a so-called tort-reform law passed just a dozen years ago may shield the manufacturer from liability.

The 2005 law imposed a statute of repose on product manufacturers. As a result, after 10 years, the manufacturer cannot be held legally responsible when people are injured due to certain types of malfunctions. The Fire Ball ride was nearly 20 years old.

Defenders of the law say it makes sense that after a certain period of time, a product is out of the control of its manufacturer, and that therefore the manufacturer should not be held liable for injuries. It is possible that the injured and the family of the person killed may recover compensation from other parties, including the owner and operators of the ride. However, the elimination of one party necessarily dampens the chances of the injured and their families to recover all the compensation they need and deserve.

If you have been injured, or if you have lost a loved one in an accident, it can be important to speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. A skilled attorney can explain how the law may apply to your case.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, "Ohio law may shield Fire Ball manufacturer in fatal fair accident," John Futty, Sept. 12, 2017.

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