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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

After Zanesville: A Plea For Legislative Reason And Deliberation Instead Of Reflexive Reaction

A result of exotic animal ownership or an irresponsible owner?
Now that the threat caused by yesterday's mass release of dozens of wild exotic animals onto the streets of Zanesville, Ohio has ended, unfortunately bringing with it the tragic (but necessary) shooting deaths of most of the animals in the name of public safety, we are already hearing the reflexive cries for legislation banning exotic animal ownership outright in Ohio as well as in other states where regulation of exotic animals is lax or, in some cases, nonexistent.  Heck, even Ted Nugent has waded into the issue.  While I don't think that regulation of exotic animals is a bad thing in concept, I fear that, as is almost always the case when bad things happen, the loudest voices and most unreasonable minds will charge fearlessly toward the most restrictive regulation possible in an effort to placate the masses and achieve political favor as "the person who did something" for his constituents.  Too often, though, this kind of reactionary legislation, while looking good in the moment, reveals itself over time to be ill-suited to solving the real problem at issue.  This is a plea, therefore, to state legislators, in Ohio and elsewhere, already working on an immediate legislative remedy, to stop drafting the law now, take the time to examine this incident and others like it, understand the underlying issues, listen to the experts, and then, AND ONLY THEN, draft meaningful regulation that addresses the problem effectively. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Picture Ruins A Thousand Warnings: How Marketing Makes Liability More Likely

I saw a particularly troublesome example of the collision between marketing and operations yesterday when I read a newspaper article on the Internet concerning ride safety at a large amusement park.  In the interest of not drawing any negative attention, I’m going to use an alias for the park, Happy Funland, and I’m not going to link to the article, so you’ll have to trust me on what it said.  At the top of the article was a photograph of a roller coaster descending down a drop.  Sitting in the car were two people, both clearly wearing name tags of the facility, both obviously enjoying their ride screaming and smiling, and both with their hands flailing about up in the air.  Under the picture was a caption reading, to paraphrase, “Employees test riding the WonderCoaster at Happy Funland Amusement Park.”  As if this wasn’t bad enough was this paraphrased quote from a park official:

“Our staff is extremely knowledgeable in what is required to run our rides incredibly safely and safety is our top priority when it comes to operating any ride in the park.”

Really?  ‘Cause the picture of the employees violating the safety rules sure doesn’t indicate to me that at least these employees are “extremely knowledgeable in what is required to run” this ride “incredibly safely.”  Worse, if someone ever gets injured on this ride because they weren’t holding on, this is exactly the kind of thing that plaintiff’s lawyers will jump on and that makes my job defending the facility a whole lot tougher.  This one highly publicized picture or other similar shots in marketing brochures or television commercials can (and will) come back to bite you (in that place that’s supposed to remain in the seat the whole ride) in the event of a lawsuit.  “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” is simply not a ticket to guarding against legal liability or building a solid liability defense.