A state appellate court was recently tasked with deciding whether an amusement park could be held liable in a California product liability case after the plaintiff was injured while riding on a waterslide. The issue was whether the defendant amusement park was providing a service rather than a product. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to show the amusement park primarily delivered a service, and therefore, summary judgment for the defendant on the product liability claim was denied. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured going down a waterslide at the amusement park. After slipping from a seated position on the inner tube onto his stomach, he fractured his hip and pelvis when his feet hit the bottom of the pool. Among other issues, the plaintiff claimed that the waterslide was a defective product that caused his injuries.
The amusement park claimed that it could not be held liable under a product liability theory because it provided a service, rather than a product. A successful product liability claim can hold a supplier or producer of a defective product liable, and also allows a plaintiff to recover compensation for injuries resulting from the defective product. However, product liability claims do not apply when the defendant is delivering a “service” to the consumer rather than supplying a product. For this particular case, the court needed to determine whether guests pay the admission fee to the amusement park to use the waterslides, in which case products liability applies, or if the admission fee is paid to obtain a service which may include the use of waterslides.
The court decided that competing inferences could be drawn about the primary objective of people visiting the park. However, the court ultimately found that the more logical conclusion was that patrons pay to use the waterslides and not to receive a “service.” Applying previous case law, the court likened this case to one in which a laundromat was held liable under a product liability theory for a defective washing machine, noting that the laundromat did not manufacture the product, but that its business relies on the use of the product. On the other hand, the court acknowledged that amusement parks offer service to entice patrons in addition to rides, such as retail sales, ride attendants, and food. However, the court explained that the amusement park must provide more than mere “entertainment services” for a product liability theory not to apply; otherwise, protections for consumers would be drastically weakened.
Although the opinion hints that patrons pay the fee to use the waterslides and therefore a product liability theory may be applied, the court ruled that more facts are necessary to determine a guest’s primary purpose in paying for the admissions ticket. As summary judgment can only be granted when the record is fully developed, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case for additional fact-finding.
This case presents an interesting illustration of how far a defendant will go in a product liability claim to avoid legal responsibility. Thus, those who have been injured while at a California amusement park should be sure to consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney for assistance.
Have You Suffered Injuries After Using a Defective or Unsafe Product?
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries after using a defective product, you should contact the experienced California product liability attorneys at the Sharifi Firm, APC. Our dedicated attorneys will handle every aspect of your case so that you can focus on your recovery while ensuring that your case is handled with the skill and attention it deserves. We also represent clients in California premises liability cases, car accident claims, and other personal injury matters. To discuss your case with a skilled and dedicated product liability attorney, contact our office at 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation.