When Arlington billionaire Angus Wynne opened Six Flags Over Texas in 1961 on August 1, 1961, he envisioned the theme park as a way to create a temporary revenue stream on a vacant piece of property until it could be redeveloped. But visitors flocked to the new park, and he recouped his $3.5 million investment within about 18 months, which changed his mind about redevelopment plans. Today, about 40 million people each year visit one of the more than 30 Six Flags theme parks in North America.
Most modern theme parks in and around Texas, even the outdoor ones, are open ten or eleven months a year. When patrons are injured, what must they prove to receive compensation for their losses?
Theme park patrons are business invitees, and a landowner owes these individuals the highest duty under the law. As a preliminary matter, the victims must prove that they were implicitly invited to the property for a business or commercial reason. Business invitees include apartment dwellers, shopping mall customers, hotel guests, and business tenants. These people do not need to spend money; contractors, browsers, and job applicants are also considered business invitees.
Once business invitees are on premises, a landowner has a duty to:
- Cure Defective Conditions:In addition to hidden dangers, like loose floor boards, this duty also extends to open and obvious dangers that pose an unreasonable risk of harm. Erecting a barrier may or may not be sufficient; and
- Inspect Property: To keep the premises safe, the landowner must look for dangerous conditions and address them.
Additionally, the injury must be foreseeable; for example, it is foreseeable that a loose bolt on a ride may cause it to fall on top of someone.
In addition to a breach of the duty of care, victims must prove that the breach caused their injuries. If the victims were partially at fault, perhaps because they had adverse medical conditions, the jury may reduce the damages. Texas law typically requires a physical injury, although emotional distress may be compensable as pain and suffering damages. The plaintiff must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.”
Theme park negligence often leads to serious injury. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. We serve clients throughout South Central Texas.