About Me

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I am a consultant and general counsel to International Ride Training LLC as well as a practicing attorney in Avon, Connecticut. A particular focus of mine is the legal needs of the amusement and tourism industry. My focus on the amusement industry derives from my pre-law career as an operations manager with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando. Having started my career as a ride operator at Cedar Point in 1992, I progressed through the seasonal ranks and ultimately became the Manager of Ride Operations and Park Services at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I also worked in Universal's operations department during the construction and development of Islands of Adventure. Today, I am an active member of the New England Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. I have been invited to speak at amusement industry meetings and seminars and have worked on a variety of matters relating to this industry.

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This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice (or any legal advice). By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher and / or author nor can such a relationship be created by use of his Blog / Web Site. By using thisBlog / Web Site you understand that any statement on the blog site are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. By using this blog site you understand that the Blog/Web Site is not affiliated with or approved by Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. This blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Regardless, the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Massachusetts Bill Would Criminalize Enforcement of Amusement Ride Safety Requirements (Really ... It's True).

In Massachusetts, this sign could soon be illegal.
On May 16, 1999, a 37 year old man was ejected and injured while riding the Superman Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake.  "Park officials say that the passenger restraint system was working properly, and that the weight of the rider, which was in excess of 300 pounds, could have been a factor." 

On September 21, 2002, a 40 year old woman fell to her death at Knotts Berry Farm while riding the Perilous Plunge.  According to the coroner's report, "the woman weighed 292 pounds, had a 58-inch abdomen, and ... her hips were about 50 inches around." The seat belts on the ride only extended 50 inches.

On May 1, 2004, a man was ejected from Six Flag's New England's Superman roller coaster and killed.  Investigators found that a contributing factor to his death was that the "girth of the victim's lower torso was incompatible with the "T" bar restraint" on the ride."

And just a few weeks ago, on July 19, 2013, Rosy Esparza, a 52 year old woman, was ejected from the Texas Giant and fell to her death.  Her weight may have been a factor in her death.  While Six Flags has not released the findings of its investigation due to pending litigation, a statement issued by Six Flags on September 10 states that the ride was being reopened with modified restraints and a test seat at the entrance because "as with other rides in the park, guests with unique body shapes or sizes may not fit into the restraint system." 

Meet the man trying hard to make your next amusement ride more dangerous.

Weight clearly can be a problem on some amusement rides.  The fact is that rides are simply not designed to safely accommodate everyone of every size.  That's the reason manufacturers establish height requirements and, less frequently, weight requirements for amusement rides.  And while every operator has faced, on numerous occasions, the wrath of a parent who vociferously insists that his child be allowed to ride notwithstanding the height requirement or the guest that only JUUUUUUUST fits into the restraint but steadfastly insists on riding, whenever anyone is injured or killed a central theme in the inevitable ensuing lawsuit is that the operator should not have allowed the rider to board if the ride could not safely accommodate him.  But what if it was actually against the law for an operator to enforce height requirements?  What if it was actually a crime to turn someone away from a ride due to their weight?  Well, if State Representative Byron Rushing (D., Boston) has his way, that might soon be the case in the fine Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (Thanks to my colleague Paul Cavanaugh, of Daly Cavanaugh LLP for bringing this one to my attention!).   

Click "read more" for the rest of the story....

Friday, September 6, 2013

In Favor Of Federal Amusement Oversight? Why Pennsylvania Proves It Won't Work

In the weeks following the tragic death of Rosy Esparza on the Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas, there has been a great deal of debate and scrutiny of amusement regulation, or lack thereof, at the state and federal level in United States.  One state, though, has emerged as the poster-child for "what's wrong with amusement regulation" in this country - Pennsylvania.  Research conducted by Pittsburgh-based PublicSource has revealed holes and systemic weaknesses in Pennsylvania's amusement industry oversight - holes and systemic weaknesses that should be fixed.  But beyond the obvious issues raised by the PublicSource investigation, I think the experience in Pennsylvania must be viewed as a microcosm for the problems that would certainly be encountered if federal oversight of the amusement industry were to become a reality.