Every day in the warm months, thousands of Canadians of all ages visit amusement parks, enjoying the many activities offered. The biggest attraction for most is the rides. These typically range from low impact rides, like merry-go-rounds, which often remain fairly low to the ground and move at a slow to medium pace, to high impact ones, such as gravity rides. Despite the exhilaration and fright that some visitors look for in rides that operate at high speeds and heights, all park visitors come with the expectation that no real harm will result from the ride experience, and so they should. For the majority of visitors, it is indeed a fun, exciting and risk-free activity. However, for some, amusement park rides can become the cause of very serious accidents, resulting in injury and sometimes, even death.
Amusement parks function under the Occupier’s Liability Act, which states that as the occupier, an entertainment park owner has a responsibility to make certain that all individuals are reasonably safe while on the park’s premises. Also, under the 2000 Technical Standards and Safety Act, for any “amusement device”, which most amusement park rides are classified as, an attendant is required to ensure that individuals move safely to and from the device. Therefore, should an individual be hurt, injured or killed while getting on, riding or exiting an amusement park ride, the amusement park may be held liable and is likely to be charged with negligence.
This was the case, when on August 21, 2010, eleven year old Shivam Bhatt was injured while getting ready to board one of the rides, called the Sky Ride, which is an aerial tramway at the Centreville Amusement Park on Toronto’s Centre Island. (The rides at Centreville are largely intended for families with children aged 12 and under, and about half the users of Sky Ride are under 18 years of age.) Shivam, who was with his father at the time, stumbled and fell when he was struck from behind by the approaching chair of the ride as they were getting ready to board. The fall caused Shivam to fracture both the tibia and fibula on his right foot.
Shivam Bhatt brought an action against William Beasley Enterprises Limited (WBEL) the owners of the Centreville Amusement Park, as well as the employees present at the time of the accident. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bhatt also sought damages under the Family Law Act. WBEL made a counterclaim against Mr. Bhatt for contribution and indemnity.
A key point in the case was the fact that the Sky Ride never fully comes to a stop. In order for individuals to board, they are asked to stand on footprints on a platform, look over their shoulder for the approaching chair and then get on as it approaches. Thus, Judge Faieta’s decision mostly came down to whether or not, under the Occupier’s Liability Act, WEBL failed to ensure the reasonable safety of its customers – in this case, Shivam Bhatt. It was concluded that WEBL did fail in its duty and thus was both negligent and liable for Shivam’s accident.
Judge Faita ruled that WEBL failed to ensure Shivam and his father’s reasonable safety in four ways. One, there was no visible sign informing the two that the chair of the Sky Ride never fully came to a stop. Two, there was no verbal warning given to Shivam and his father by the ride attendant, that the Sky Ride would not fully stop prior to boarding. Three, the attendant failed to ask Shivam or his father if either needed assistance boarding the ride of if they needed it slowed down. Finally, it was ruled that there was insufficient staff at the time of the incident to fully instruct and protect the customers.
The lack of communication about the nature of the Sky Ride, specifically that it never fully came to a stop, was particularly relevant to the case as Mr. Bhatt, Shivam’s father, made it very clear that had he been aware of this, he would not have allowed Shivam to go on the ride. This was owing to a pre-existing condition Shivam suffered from, called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), which caused him to have very fragile bones that bruised and fractured easily. WEBL actually argued that knowing of this condition, Mr. Bhatt and Shivam were in some ways at fault for the incident and thus, guilty of contributory negligence.
Referring to judgements in Gough v. Thorne, Arnold v. Teno and Taggart (Litigation Guardian of) v. Heuchert, Judge Faita rejected WEBL’s claim, partially on the grounds that there was no way for either Shivam or his father to have known that the ride would not stop and thus no way to have understood how risky it would be to Shivam. Despite Shivam’s condition, Mr. Bhatt stated that he had ridden many park rides before, without incident. Therefore, there was nothing to indicate to them that this ride would be any different, particularly as they were never informed that the ride never fully comes to a stop before boarding.
In the end, the judge ruled that WEBL’s negligence did cause the injuries suffered by Shivam Bhatt as a result of the accident on August 21, 2010. They were ordered to pay Shivam a total of $173,693.23 in damages and to his parents, $81,000 for Loss of Guidance, Care & Companionship, as well as Future Pecuniary Loss.
Amusement Park rides are an entertainment attraction that are enjoyed by the public with the expectation that the ride’s structure and mechanics, as well as the park employees ensure their safety and protection from harm. It is the job of an amusement park owner to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their customers, and owner/operators should be held accountable if they fail to do so. If you or a loved one has been hurt or injured due to negligence on the part of a company, firm or individual, do not hesitate to call Rastin & Associates. Our trained team of personal injury lawyers will be happy to assist you in obtaining fair compensation for damages.