The operator of a North Carolina State Fair ride that malfunctioned three years ago, resulting in the catastrophic injuries of a 30-year-old Durham resident, was sentenced to probation recently after last year pleading guilty to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Although the operator made his plea last year, sentencing was held off until prosecutors resolved the criminal case against the ride’s owner, who in February was sentenced to 30 days jail and ordered to pay $22,500 in restitution. The operator, meanwhile, will not serve jail time, even though he knew of the owner’s actions in installing jump wiring on the ride that bypassed safety measures intended to prevent the ride from starting without the safety handlebars in place.
Unsurprisingly, an accident occurred when the right started without the safety handlebars in place, as riders were exiting the ride. A total of five people were injured, including one man who suffered injuries to his brain, neck, skull and spinal cord. He was comatose for a full month after the accident, and now suffers from ongoing seizures. He’s also permanently blind in one eye and has been unable to return to work.
Defendant operator’s criminal defense lawyer asked for leniency from the court, noting the operator’s willingness to testify against the owner brought the civil case to a more expeditious close last year.
According to WRAL.com, although the 30-year-old was the most seriously injured, his wife, her son and her niece were also seriously hurt.
The family reached a confidential settlement with both the owner and operator, as well as Family Attractions LLC, which operated the ride. The family had been seeking $150 million – which included $100 million in punitive damages. They argued the ride owner and operator were far more interested in making money than ensuring riders were safe. An attorney for the family said the 30-year-old will require medical care the rest of his life, and the family’s medical bills are expected to exceed $30 million over the course of their lives.
It’s not clear how much the family received in the settlement, as the terms were confidential.
With fair season upon us, and incidents like this fresh in our minds, it’s important to note that while the fair can be a great way to spend the day, but safety should be a top concern. The North Carolina Department of Labor says they don’t have enough workers – nor are they required – to inspect all of the hundreds of state fair rides at all times. Despite horrific accidents like this, it’s still up to the individual operators to inspect the rides themselves.
A department spokesman said safety inspectors do check the locks, seat cushions, nuts on bolts on each ride. But once a safety certification is issued, the operator and owner are the ones responsible to make sure the ride stays in compliance with safety regulations.
Regulators say it’s important for riders to read, listen and adhere to all instructions given by operators. They need to watch their children before boarding and obey the height and weight restrictions.
If an fair-related injury does occur, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about whether you may have a case for compensation.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
NC State Fair Ride Operator Put on Probation for 2013 Malfunction, June 6, 2016, By Anne Blythe, Raleigh News & Observer
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Jimenez v. Roseville City School District – School Injury and Lack of Supervision, June 7, 2016, Winston-Salem Personal Injury Attorney Blog