An attorney for a California amusement park company has called the company’s recent win in a bumper car lawsuit a “victory for anyone who likes fun and risk activities.” The case involved a head on collision in bumper cars between two amusement park patrons – one of the patrons ended up with a broken wrist. Of course, low speed collisions are the whole point of the ride.
The California Supreme Court says riders can’t sue over injuries stemming from the inherent nature of the attraction.
The lawsuit was filed by a San Jose, California doctor, Smriti Nalwa, who fractured her wrist while riding in a bumper car with her 9-year-old son. The injury occurred when she braced herself for a head-on collision with another car by placing her arm on the dashboard. Dr. Nalwa alleged that amusement park, Great America, failed to direct its employees to ask patrons to avoid head on collisions. To the joy of kids and kids at heart throughout the state, the court was not buying what the good doctor was selling. The court found that Dr Nalwa’s injury was caused by a collision that was a normal part of the ride and that she had assumed the risk by participating in the ride. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar held:
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. Those who voluntarily join in these activities also voluntarily take on their minor inherent risks.
Perhaps California gets an unfair legal rap? But then you consider the fact that there actually was a dissenting opinion. Justice Joyce L. Kennard’s dissent complains that the decision makes poor trial judges face “the unenviable task of determining the risks of harm that are inherent in a particular recreational activity.” I think we could give that task to any 7 year-old and they could handle it.