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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Amusement Park Bashes Bumper Cars Injury Suit

(CN) - An amusement park owner is not liable to a doctor who broke her wrist while riding the bumper cars with his sons, the California Supreme Court ruled.

Dr. Smriti Nalwa went to Great America amusement park with her 9- and 6-year-old sons. While one of her sons was driving a Rue le Dodge bumper car, with Nalwa seated as his passenger, the car was hit from the front and back simultaneously.

Nalwa put her hand on the car's dashboard to brace herself, but the impact fractured her wrist.

Nalwa sued the park's owner, Cedar Fair LP, for negligence and willful misconduct. A Santa Clara County judge sided with Cedar Fair, stating that it did not have control over the individual cars and did not act with reckless disregard of a likely injury.

The California Court of Appeals reversed, however, after finding that Cedar Fair could have reconfigured the ride to minimize head-on collisions.

On further appeal, the Golden State's highest court ruled Monday in favor of Cedar Fair. Bumping the cars is the entire point of the ride, so Nalwa had to assume the risks of that activity, according to the ruling.

"We conclude the primary assumption of risk doctrine, though most frequently applied to sports, applies as well to certain other recreational activities including bumper car rides," Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for a six-justice majority.

"We further conclude the doctrine applies to the ride here, even though amusement parks are subject to state safety regulations and even though, as to some rides, park owners owe participants the heightened duty of care of a common carrier for reward," Werdegar added.

In a six-page dissent, Justice Joyce Kennard said that the court erred in extending the no-risk-for-sports rule to bumper cars.

"Because of the many variables, the 'inherest risk' determination is often fact-sensitive and ill-suited for treatment as a question of law, which a trial court must decide without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing," Kennard wrote.

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