Are Theme Parks Liable if They Don’t Have Warnings in Spanish?
When a Guatemalan family took a trip to Central Florida in 2016 to have some fun at the local theme parks, the family didn’t expect their 38-year-old father would suffer a fatal heart attack while riding the Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride. The family would later file a lawsuit against Universal Orlando Resort, claiming the theme park was negligent by not displaying warning signs for people with prior heart conditions — in Spanish. If the theme park had done that, the lawsuit indicates, the father, who had prior heart problems, could have made a reasonable decision about whether to avoid going on that ride.
As one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, the Orlando area continues to attract visitors from countries all across the globe, with at least some of them coming here with little or no knowledge of English. So are theme parks liable if they fail to post warning signs for certain rides in languages other than English?
Why is Universal Orlando Facing a Negligence Lawsuit?
The lawsuit filed by the Guatemalan family has raised questions about whether theme parks have a health-related and even legal obligation to post warning signs about a ride’s potential dangers in a language other than English.
As the lawsuit states, “Universal was aware of the great number of tourists on their premises who do not speak English.”
There’s no question that Orlando attracts plenty of international visitors. Local tourism officials say up to 6 million of the 72 million visitors who came to Greater Orlando in 2017 live outside the U.S. However, it’s far more difficult to determine how many of them don’t speak any English.
Skull Island uses animatronics and 3D screens to recreate a truck expedition moving through the island where King Kong lives. A sign at the ride’s entrance says in English, “Warning! This ride is an expedition through the rough terrain of King Kong’s natural habitat. The movement of the truck is dynamic with sudden accelerations, dramatic tilting, and jarring actions.” The sign also warns that people should not go on the ride if they have heart conditions, high blood pressure, neck or back conditions, or are an expectant mother.
How Can Theme Parks Promote Safety Through Signage?
There are more than 400 amusement parks in the United States, and each one is unique in the way it uses signage as a means of communicating with guests and trying to offer protection for them. Signage can be used to promote important safety information and to caution about any potential risks on certain rides related to a guest’s age, height, weight, or pre-existing medical conditions. Theme parks often warn people with heart conditions not to get on thrill rides.
As the lawsuit in Orlando points out, a park’s failure to post the proper signage risks exposing guests to potential injuries.
But there are questions about what kind of liability amusement parks have. An amusement park can be liable for negligence if it fails to act with reasonable care, which can include failing to post proper signage about possible risks to vulnerable guests. But there are also legal questions about whether guests should have assumed the ride’s possible risk when they voluntarily got in line since thrill rides are designed to raise our level of excitement — and anxiety. While it’s true that amusement parks can be held responsible for failing to adequately warn guests about possible risks, some states won’t hold the park liable if it can be demonstrated that the guest voluntarily assumed the risk.
Some amusement parks are responding by updating safety signs with graphics to symbolize a warning, so the images can help convey the message about the need to proceed cautiously. That can include having internationally recognized graphics on the signs. Universal, for example, uses internationally-recognized graphics on its warning signs.
In Florida, if you’re injured on a theme park ride, it can be challenging to determine who has liability. You would need to show whether it was the property owner who was liable for what happened on their property — or the manufacturer of the ride if there was something defective in the design. That’s why an experienced attorney should review your case first and determine exactly who is responsible for your accident. Without the assistance of a personal injury attorney, that can be far more difficult.
Schedule a Complimentary Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve been hurt in an accident at a theme park, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm. With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, they can assess your situation (even if you are an international tourist) and guide you on what to do next so you can achieve the best possible settlement. The first consultation is free. Contact them today by filling out our contact form or call at any time of day or night.