St. Louis: A much-sued museum talks back

by Walter Olson on May 4, 2010

The City Museum in St. Louis is not your usual assemblage of annotated exhibits: it’s a thrill-seeker’s delight, with a giant jungle gym and slides, described as a cross between “a playground and a theme park,” and a huge success that draws 700,000 visitors a year. It also has been sued numerous times by patrons who managed to get hurt on its determinedly non-soft surfaces, and unlike the great majority of defendants, it has chosen not to clam up when sued. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch relates, the quirky museum used its Facebook page to call out by name some plaintiffs who have sued after taking (in its view) inadequate care for their own safety and, somewhat more acerbically, the lawyers who prosecute the suits. Its news release has more:

Just to give you a quick glimpse into what we go through at the City Museum, a couple of years ago our rock fell 4 feet. The next day we had over 12 people call and tell us they were injured when the rock fell. To investigate these claims, we reviewed the video of the rock falling and we posted the video clearly showing that there was no one next to the rock when it fell on our website. When this was brought to several of the caller’s attention they either hung up or changed their stories.

From a Wall Street Journal account (attorneys “take the fun out of life”):

A sign near the admission gate gives the names and phone numbers of law firms that have represented people who sued the museum, blaming them for a 9% surcharge recently added to the cost of a ticket.

More: Shield of Achilles (“naming and shaming”), Free-Range Kids (with reader comments).

{ 7 comments }

1 BG 05.04.10 at 7:26 am

When I read the article in the WSJ last week the museum made on the “must see” list for our next trip out that direction (StL is an overnight stop for us on the way to visit family). Sounds like a great place that my kids and husband would love to visit.

2 Peter 05.04.10 at 8:30 am

To investigate these claims, we reviewed the video of the rock falling and we posted the video clearly showing that there was no one next to the rock when it fell on our website

See, the museum’s real problem is that their web server is apparently located under a big rock.

3 Barney 05.04.10 at 8:58 am

BG-

Two years ago I travelled to St Louis on business, and my family joined me. My wife and kids spent the day at the museum, and still talk about how much fun it was.

4 Rliyen 05.04.10 at 10:08 am

I’m going to have to go to this museum before I die of old age. I love it’s attitude sooooo much. =o)

5 Marni 05.05.10 at 7:23 am

So, according to the WSJ article, annual insurance for this museum, with over 700000 visitors a year and 25 lawsuits, is $600,000.

Average annual malpractice insurance in Florida for a single OB/GYN is over $200,000.

Sure, no need for malpractice tort reform in this country!

6 Brat Magursky 05.05.10 at 9:02 am

I have long said tort reform is a grass roots undertaking. Using legislation is a failed policy as Judges\Lawyers are collectively too powerful a lobby. And, they are experts at finding ways around the laws designed to reign them in. If every business (especially physcians\hospitals) around the country posted a list of the lawsuits against them, the expenses involved in defending them and equating that expense to why cost of services increase….I think people would start to see why all this talk of reform isnt crazy talk after all. I mean why does everyone get in a tizzy over a million dollar bonus being paid to a retiring CEO of a fortune 500 company but think some class lawyer who gets 2 million in fees when his clients get $1.25 each is sticking it to the man ?? That is the real crazy talk!!

7 AMcA 05.05.10 at 1:28 pm

The falling rock story reminds me of a standard operating procedure at the Chicago Transit Authority: when a bus gets in an accident, the driver is required to lock the doors so that no one can hop on, claim injury and file a lawsuit.

Or, as one friend reported to me, after being in aminor bus accident he overheard another passenger exclaim in disappointment: “Damn, I thought I had my disability.”

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