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Rollercoaster Injuries in California

Rollercoaster Injuries in California

The summer is over, but it won’t be long before many families are back at some of our area theme parks.

My office was recently asked about rollercoaster injuries in California.  It turns out that this issue was heavily litigated before the California Supreme Court about a decade ago in the case of Gomez v. Superior Court (35 Cal.4th 1125 (2005)).

Cristina Moreno was visiting Disneyland shortly after her wedding in 2002.  While on the Indiana Jones ride, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and injuries as a result of the ride’s jarring jumps and movements.  She was hospitalized and later died.

Ms. Moreno’s estate sued Disneyland, arguing that it was a “common carrier” under California tort law.  Since 1859 in California, “carriers of persons for reward” have been the subject of a heightened duty of care.  Disneyland moved to dismiss the case, which the trial court did.  On appeal,  the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court both disagreed with Disneyland.

The Supreme Court provided a lengthy historical analysis of California’s common carrier rules.  Examples that have evolved over time include ski lifts, elevators, escalators, and of course buses and airplanes.

The Court found that the fact that a rollercoaster ride is intended for thrills and recreation does not remove the theme park’s obligations under California’s common carrier rules.

In the Court’s words, “[a] passenger’s purpose in purchasing the transportation, whether it be to get from one place to another or to travel simply for pleasure or sightseeing, does not determine whether the provider of the transportation is a carrier for reward.  The passenger’s purpose does not affect the duty of the carrier to exercise the highest degree of care for the safety of the passenger.” ( Gomez, 35 Cal.App.4th at 1136.)

The takeaway from the Gomez case is that California theme park rides are considered common carriers.  As a result, they are held to a higher standard of care for passengers riding on rollercoasters and other rides.

For questions about a rollercoaster injury case here in California, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6.