SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – The Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Southern California faces a lawsuit over its Timber Mountain water ride, after a 5-year-old was slammed into the back of the seat in front of him as the log he was riding in suddenly decelerated – an incident that came after the park had been cited for problems on the same ride by California’s safety agency.
“Plaintiff and his father with inertia flew forward and plaintiff’s head was sandwiched between his father and the back of the seat causing an orbital blowout,” Charles and Timothy Miller say in their complaint, which was filed Monday but withheld by the court clerk for processing.
Knott’s Berry Farm sees about 3.5 million visitors a year and is located in Buena Park, not far from its more famous cousin Disneyland. The park’s theme harkens to the past, with rides recalling gold mining, steam engines and spinning wheels.
A destination for conservative college students in the 1960s, the park is now best known for its Halloween revamp as Knott’s Scary Farm, popular with high school students from the region.
In contrast to the playful and idealized milieu it represents, the rides cause real-world injuries, a characteristic shared by virtually all amusement parks.
The park’s media contact declined to comment on the Millers’ lawsuit, saying Knott’s Berry Farm does not discuss legal matters.
According the family’s attorney Barry Novack, it’s not the first time Knott’s has had trouble with the Timber Mountain Log Ride. He said there have been at least 10 other reported injuries.
Novack also represented a 6-year-old girl in 2015, when the child suffered a similar eye injury on the same ride. That case was settled for a confidential amount.
The Millers’ complaint says the amusement park’s management was aware of many incidents on the ride which caused injuries to park visitors, especially small children. Like Charles, they too were thrown into the log ride’s interior components, mostly during the post-final drop.
“Defendants were aware that the water-sensing system was not properly monitoring the water level on the rides, especially at the bottom of the last drop, which contributed to their being injured by being thrown against the log’s interior components,” the Millers say in the complaint.
The Millers cite a report by the state’s amusement park safety unit after an inspection brought on by an earlier and very similar accident.
“A review of reported injuries shows a trend associated with braking of the passenger-carrying devices at the run out of the last drop of the ride,” the report by California’s health and safety division said. The injuries ranged from knocked-out teeth to the eye socket fracture that was similar to Charles Miller’s injury.
The Millers say the park’s management was told many times that the water-sensing system for the ride was not properly functioning and they were operating the ride out of compliance with safety procedures.
“DOSH had notified defendants on numerous occasions about the sensor issue but defendant nonetheless did not adequately correct this safety hazard, contributing to guest injuries, including plaintiff,” the Millers say in their complaint. “In fact, from approximately May 31, 2013, to January 31, 2015, defendants were operating the Timber Mountain Log Ride out of compliance of safety-related procedure issued by DOSH on Dec. 21, 2012, which stated: ‘The owner/operator of the ride known as Timber Mountain Log Ride shall enhance outside run-out water level monitoring procedures to ensure proper water level is maintained.’”
In seeking an undefined amount of exemplary damages, the Millers say, “Punitive damages are not only warranted but appear to be the only way to get defendants to change their unsafe practices that have put small children at risk of serious injury.”
Defendants include Knott’s parent company Cedar Fair and its subsidiaries, Magnum Management Corp., and six individual John or Jane Does.