Los Angeles has its fair share of amusement parks, and most of us assume that we will be safe when we spend our vacations at these parks. Recently, the California Court of Appeal had to determine whether we assume the risk of injury when we go on a ride at an amusement park. The Court found that patrons of amusement parks do not assume the risk of injury on an amusement park ride.
In Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP, a woman took her 10 year old son and 7 year old daughter to Great American Amusement Park in Santa Clara, California. While there, the family took a ride on the bumper cars. The family’s car was hit in a head-on collision with another bumper car.
When the mother braced herself upon the impact, she broke her wrist. The operator of the amusement park, Cedar Fair, LP, had known of the problem of head on impacts with its bumper cars. And, it had made changes at its other parks to prevent head on collisions.
The issue in that case was whether or not the assumption of risk doctrine would apply. If it did, it would mean that the amusement park would not owe a duty of care to patrons of its amusement park.
The Court concluded that the assumption of risk doctrine, which often applies in the context of sporting events, does not apply to amusement park rides. The Court began its analysis with the overriding public policy requiring owners of amusement parks to make the parks safe for their patrons. The Court recognized that the owner of an amusement park holds its park open to the public with the promise of safe fun and excitement, and the owner has complete control over the design and operation of its rides.
The Court of Appeal’s decision prevents amusement park owners from escaping responsibility to its patrons. Any other decision would have incentivized owners to turn a blind eye at safety issues in order to save costs. That would place lives in danger.