“Please Disregard That ‘We’re Not Blaming the Park’ Thing”

by Ted Frank on July 2, 2008

(Post bumped with 12:20 AM update adding coverage of state Labor Department’s suggestion for new warnings.)

Roller-coaster enthusiast and torts professor Bill Childs is stealing our thunder in his coverage of the recent Georgia Batman roller coaster decapitation of Asia LeeShawn Ferguson IV, so there’s no point in rewriting his excellent post instead of quoting it:

The family of the young man killed at Six Flags Over Georgia had said pretty emphatically that they weren’t blaming the park (here (“All we know is that we don’t blame anybody.”). But, well, now they’ve got a lawyer:

“Attorney Lamar Flatt thinks warning signs and fences placed near the ride weren’t enough to prevent this tragic death …”

Just as a reminder, there was at least one (and reports indicate two) six-foot fence, clear signs, and, let’s not forget, a multi-ton very loud steel roller coaster all rather prominent in the area. (The manufacturer of the ride, B&M, makes coasters that are sufficiently loud that the phrase “B&M roar” came into existence.) …

But it’s hard to see what more could be expected. Razor wire? A shark-infested moat with sharks with lasers?

Well, Bill, as 11Alive reports:

The Labor Department recommended that security officers should be stationed in the area of the ride until increased signage and fencing could be put in place. The existing signage, the Labor Department found, does meat [sic] state and national standards established by the American Society for Testing and Materials. However, the Labor Department suggested the number and size of the signs should be increased; additionally, it was suggested the signs should include the words “Extreme Danger.”

Presumably, thanks to overwarning, everyone knows to ignore the signs that simply say “Danger.” Thus signs need to be New-and-improved EXTREME Danger-with-an-exclamation-point! I’m just waiting for someone to point out that to the kids of today Extreme means “cool” and increases the attractive nuisance. (Related NSFW Youtube satire on “extreme” relating to the Warner Brothers efforts to Poochie-ize Bugs Bunny by making him more “extreme.” Funny, if tiresome after 80 seconds if not before.)

Sadly, a cynical commenter was correct. Childs has a funny roller-coaster warning sign from a different amusement park, too. Click over there so he isn’t too mad that we’ve quoted so many of the good parts of his post.

{ 19 comments }

1 Paul 07.01.08 at 9:56 pm

I’m internet famous!

2 Todd Rogers 07.01.08 at 10:17 pm

It’s a good thing Great White wasn’t performing at the park that day.

3 David Wisniewski 07.01.08 at 11:20 pm

Great. Just what we need. Another PI attorney who sees $$$. It’s the Oprahfication of America- no one is at fault, everyone is a victim (except if you are a deep-pocket amusement park, then you are at fault).

4 Scott M 07.02.08 at 9:10 am

Six Flags is the one who should sue. They probably have a stronger case along these lines. Church group takes teens to amusement park and fails to supervise children that obviously needed it. Their failure of duty resulted in an unfortunate death resulting a massive media that has cost the amusement park time and money.

Bet you the lawyer convinces the family to go after the church.

5 Heather 07.02.08 at 10:56 am

Why would the family go after the church when the park has more money?

6 Richard Nieporent 07.02.08 at 11:00 am

The Labor Department recommended that security officers should be stationed in the area of the ride until increased signage and fencing could be put in place.

Can’t we just give the boy a Darwin award and move on? Isn’t it better that people like this are no longer in the gene pool?

7 Edward Lunny 07.02.08 at 1:29 pm

Electrify the fence, leave a couple of charred corpses hanging on said fence as a warning. Six flags and the state of Georgia should sue the parents for producing and poorly training their progeny ,whilst allowing an obviously dangerous individual to wander about without sufficient supervision. These parents were seriously negligent on several counts and should be happy their son didn’t kill anyone else. A Darwin award is definitly in order.

8 Jesse 07.03.08 at 12:46 am

Everyone, you have to face the fact that the boy didn’t get killed ON the ride, he got killed TRESPASSING under the ride. There is no ground for anyone to be sued.

9 Ted Frank 07.03.08 at 1:32 am

Jesse, thanks for reminding me to add the trespassers tag so I can cite this case among others when people think that trial lawyers don’t try to sue on behalf of trespassers. Readers, if you can link to other Overlawyered posts where the tag belongs, please let me know.

10 Richard Blaine 07.03.08 at 8:43 am

Attorney Lamar Flatt should include the state of South Carolina in his possible suit because the education system failed to teach this poor fellow how to read. He should also include the boy’s daddy. That man evidently failed to teach the boy respect for people’s property and just some good old common sense. Two six-foot fences weren’t enough?

Six Flags Atlanta should sue the boy’s estate for criminal trespass, loss of income, and psychological distress and trauma. There is something called contributory negligence in South Carolina. Here is a clear case of that in action.

11 Melvin H. 07.04.08 at 4:59 pm

Richard, don’t forget to blame the momma–how about her?
(Maybe the parents could be hauled in for negligence–not telling their kid that “no means no”, and “stay out” means “don’t go there”!)

12 Todd Rogers 07.05.08 at 8:04 am

You guys should think about adding a Darwin tag.

13 Melvin H. 07.05.08 at 1:25 pm

Maybe a “chutzpah” tag as well??

14 RNB 07.06.08 at 10:26 am

‘The father of a South Carolina teenager decapitated by a roller coaster …said Sunday that family members may never know why he hopped two fences to enter a restricted area.’ I would suggest asking the other kid who was with him.

15 Hikaru 07.07.08 at 7:39 am

Jessy: Clearly you don’t read overlawyered.com very often, or if you do, reality hasn’t set it. It’s not whether you have ground to sue or not, it’s whether you can convince a judge and a bunch of jurors that the poor, poor, parents have suffered an inconsolable loss from having their undisciplined son get killed because he did something stupid and therefore should get truckloads of money.

This isn’t about the law, it’s about how to play the courts and juries.

16 Todd Rogers 07.07.08 at 8:28 am

I think an effective warning sign for today’s kids should read, “Warning, beyond this fence you will find personal responsibility. Proceed with caution.”

17 Igor 07.07.08 at 1:26 pm

Todd, you made several assumptions that are patently incorrect…
1) you assumed the kid could read,
2) you assumed the kid could comprehend what they just read, and
3) you assumed the kid understand what “personal responsibility” really means.

The sign would be ineffective, I’m afraid. Sigh.

18 Bill Poser 07.07.08 at 2:14 pm

No one has mentioned the perfect solution: if the parents want compensation for their loss, they should sue their son’s estate.

19 Todd Rogers 07.07.08 at 3:59 pm

Maybe a simple “Help Wanted” sign would do the trick.

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