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.

Legal Disclaimer (because, you know, I'm a lawyer)

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words, But Then What?

A really cool video produced by Coke has been flying around the internet recently.  It's a good-natured spin on hidden camera stories that is supposed to demonstrate that bad things are not the only thing captured on hidden cameras. Hidden cameras are just as likely to catch all of us at our best as at our worst.  Its a pretty entertaining little video that admittedly makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  If you haven't seen it yet, here it is.
My reaction to this video was two-fold.  First, I was pretty darned impressed and a little moved.  Assuming its genuine (and heck, even if its not), the video did a nice job at making me feel good about humanity - and  strangely I am suddenly thirsty for a Coke too.  But then the lawyer in me kicked in and I wondered:  What happened just before and after each of those little snippets?  How do we know that all of these heartwarming moments really were heartwarming moments?  While it's true that, today more than ever, someone is always watching.  And taping.  And posting.  Are they really getting the whole story?  I don't think so.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Birthday! Celebrate by "Liking" The Legal Roller Coaster on Facebook!

The cake is NOT a lie.  The Legal Roller Coaster really is one year old!
This weekend marks the first birthday of The Legal Roller Coaster!  In honor of the momentous occasion, The Legal Roller Coaster is expanding.  Yes, the blog will still be here, but I have recently opened a new Facebook page.  Check it out here!  The new Facebook page features:

  • Links to all blog content from The Legal Roller Coaster;
  • Copies of documents referenced on the blog so you can see it for yourself if you just don't believe what I'm telling you;
  • More frequent updates with daily news content on the legal side of the industry; and
  • A more convenient informal way to communicate with all of you about blog content, the news of the day, or topics of interest in the industry.
If you like what you see on Facebook and you like what you see here, then by all means click "Like" on the Facebook page so that you will stay informed through your news feed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The SeaWorld OSHA Decision And The Dangers Of Captive Animals: A Reasoned Response To Media Distortion

Last week, Administrative Law Judge Ken S. Welch in Orlando issued the long awaited opinion in Secretary of Labor v. SeaWorld of Florida, LLC, more commonly known as the Dawn Brancheau case.  As most of you probably know, on February 24, 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a seasoned and respected trainer at SeaWorld, was killed by a killer whale that dragged her into the water, fatally injuring her.  Following Ms. Brancheau’s tragic death, OSHA investigated and assessed a $75,000 fine and issued two citations.  OSHA also ordered that SeaWorld abate the hazard by not allowing trainers to have contact with killer whales during shows unless they are protected by a physical barrier or a minimum safe distance of dry land.  SeaWorld appealed the violations to the OSHA Review Commission, which largely, but not totally, affirmed the OSHA investigator’s findings. 

Now I’m not going to try to pick apart Judge Welch’s decision – I don’t know the evidence, I wasn’t there for the testimony, and I don’t have significant experience with OSHA regulations and law.  The decision is quite long and very detailed and, absent greater familiarity with the underlying facts and arguments, I would not purport to challenge Judge Welch’s factual and legal determinations intelligently.  However, what does warrant comment is the treatment the decision has received in the days following its issuance and, in particular, a recent piece I read in the Huffington Post authored by David Kirby entitled “Labor Department Fires Warning Shot At Animal Entertainment Industry.”  Mr. Kirby’s piece omits key facts of the case, wrongly implies that Judge Welch found SeaWorld to be irresponsible and unconcerned with employee safety, and relies on inaccurate and misleading “statistics” and information sources to unfairly depict the frequency and severity of incidents involving animals held in captivity.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Slippery Slope? Massachusetts Just It Made It Easier For New England Waterpark Operators To Lose A Lawsuit

If you’re operating a water park in New England (or, most likely, any other amusement facility for that matter), a recent decision from the Massachusetts Appeals Court just made it easier for you to lose a law suit.  Even when I try hard to set aside any "pro-industry" bias I may occasionally have and look at this from a purely objective legal viewpoint, I can only reach one conclusion:  Massachusetts got this one wrong.  The case’s potential impact on the New England amusement industry really cannot be overstated.  So what is the issue?  Read on to find out....