How Does California Law Protect Amusement Park Patrons?
Although there are thousands of accidents at amusement parks each year, the number of injuries is relatively small in comparison to the number of patrons. This is because there is extensive oversight of amusement parks. A total of 44 state governments, including California’s, have some type of regulation for amusement park safety, with the exceptions being Alabama, Wyoming, and Utah, explained a personal injury lawyer.
California has multiple standards regulating parks. In 1969, the Amusement Rides Safety Law was passed in Labor Code section 7900 and provided for temporary and permanent amusement park rides to be subject to inspection to ensure enforcement of safety regulations. In 2000, a new law in California, AB 850, imposed additional requirements, including establishing the Permanent Amusement Ride (PAR) Safety Inspection Program. The new requirements are found in labor Code section 7900 and 7920.
Under the current California law, no one is permitted to operate an amusement park ride without a permit or without insurance, and before any new ride is built or any ride changed, plans must be submitted for approval. Further, the Ride and Tramway Unit of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health has the authority to inspect amusement park rides; to hire inspectors; and to order unsafe rides to stop operating. The law also mandates that amusement parks must provide proper safety training for employees; maintenance records must be kept; and fatalities, injuries and major mechanical failures must be reported.
In addition to the inspection and other requirements designed to keep amusement parks safe, California courts have also taken a strict stance when it comes to imposing civil liability on amusement parks. According to a decision by California’s Supreme Court, operators of amusement park rides are held to the same high standards of care that apply to buses, planes and other types of public transportation. A 4-2 court made this decision after a woman suffered a brain injury while riding the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland in Anaheim.
By classifying amusement park operators as “common carriers,” they are held to a very high safety standard, above-and-beyond the ordinary reasonable care standard. This means they are expected to show beyond extraordinary diligence. In essence, therefore, classifying parks as common carriers essentially makes amusement parks responsible for almost all injuries that occur to their patrons. This decision makes it much easier for those injured on amusement park rides in California to take action, and it is an important consumer-protection ruling since amusement parks are in the best position to ensure patron safety.
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