Details surrounding last year's North Carolina State Fair Disaster are unfolding in recent weeks. According to the Charlotte Observer, a Georgia-based business believed to be the owner of a ride that malfunctioned and seriously injured three people at the State Fair, now claims that they do not own, and are not responsible for the "Vortex." Reports indicate that the company's disavowal of the thrill ride is its attempt to shield itself from liability.
Public documents were recently released by the North Carolina Department of Labor, which is in charge of conducting safety inspections at the fair. Among the documents was a letter from the attorney for Family Attractions Amusement, to North Carolina State officials, claiming that the company and its owners "have no connection" with the Vortex ride. The letter further indicated that the ride was not owned by them, that they had no contract with the North Carolina State Fair to provide the ride, that they received no compensation for their presence at the fair, and that anyone operating the ride was not doing so on behalf of their company.
According to the Charlotte Observer's article, two parents and their teenage son were thrown from the ride while they were attempting to exit it. The machine "suddenly lurched into motion" and flung them through the air. The report indicates that the family now has ongoing medical expenses due to the serious injuries they sustained.
The company owners' son is currently facing multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. All counts are felonies. Prosecutors allege that the son tampered with safety devices on the ride, which resulted in the alleged malfunction. The operator of the ride has also been charged.
Despite Family Attractions Amusement's claim that it has no connections with the ride, the company's attorney has requested they have access to the machine, stating concerns of deterioration due to inclement weather. At the time, the Vortex was guarded and held as evidence. It has since been disassembled and hauled away. The Special Deputy Attorney on the case reported that documents filed in connection with the fair list the company as the operator of the ride, with the company's co-owner as primary contact, and the company listed ad the primary insurance policyholder. Additionally, the report indicates that the other company owner paid the inspection fee for the ride to be used at the fair, and various records and reports kept in the Vortex were printed on the company's letterhead.
Liability for injuries at amusement parks and fairs
North Carolina law has long provided, in Martin v. Amusements of America, Inc., that a person who visits an amusement park has "invitee" status, meaning that the person or entity responsible for the park has a duty to inspect the premises and devices at the park, and to supervise and oversee the operation of the property and the amusements. In the case of the Vortex, the State Fair allowed a company to operate the ride for the fair, and while the contracts pertaining to liability have not been reported, complicated issues of liability may soon surface.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to another's negligence, you may face legal issues regarding who is responsible for your injuries. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today, to guide you in the process and help ensure the best possible recovery.