Ohio jury slams Six Flags for $3.6 mil over negligence

March 6, 2006, 3:27 PM · An Ohio jury Friday awarded $3.6 million to a Wisconsin woman who suffered severe head injuries when she was struck by an object while riding a roller coaster in 2000.

Terri Wang was riding The Villian at Six Flags Ohio, now Geauga Lake, when she was struck. The impact fractured her skull and nose. Doctors later had to remove skull fragments from Wang's brain.

The jury agreed that Six Flags, the owner of the park at the time, was negligent because park employees had been warned that guests were pciking up rocks from the ground under the coaster and throwing them at the trains. Park employees did not remove the rocks, however, choosing merely to cover them with mulch.

No one has determined exactly what hit Wang, however, as the object was not recovered. A 12-year-old girl was also struck in the head and injured, allegedly by throw rocks, two years later, in 2002.

Here's a local story on the incident from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Replies (10)

March 7, 2006 at 11:28 AM · Thats a pretty hard rock being thrown! I guess the employees were partially responsible for not seeing that this is a problem. I am surprised that even after this suit, nobody did anything about it since there is another similar incident on the accident reports page. Is it rare that people sue major theme parks and win?
March 7, 2006 at 12:32 PM · The person who should pay out is the rock thrower, and not the theme park.
A case of another jury screwing what they believe is a deep pocketed corporation.
This is as dumb as the family of the kid who stood on the coaster at Cypress Gardens is now suing the park for there childs injuries.
March 7, 2006 at 2:46 PM · Everyone has the right to sue, whether it makes sense or not. Since the park did not remove the rocks after the problem had been identified, they have partial liability. I wouldn't mind seeing the rock thrower being sued, if they could find him or her.
March 7, 2006 at 2:57 PM · This suit is a bit farfetched to me. If I grab an cup from the gift shop, run around, and throw it at people, will I be the one in trouble or the park? What this suit is saying is that any idiot in any park can make use of anything in the park to throw at or hit somebody, and the park will be the one to pay. I'm sorry, but security can't police every inch of the park at once, and the fact that it was a rock in a pile of rocks doesn't matter. It could have been a keychain, or one of the hundreds of other gifts sold. Don't get me wrong, I feel sorry for the person hit, but go after the right party here.
March 7, 2006 at 3:14 PM · Derek, I think the difference is that the park was warned about a specific, available, proximate threat, and failed to take reasonable steps to eliminate that threat.

Despite politically-charged rhetoric, juries in the United States tend to be very reasonable, and to demonstrate a highly sensitive B.S. meter for crazy arguments. Juries tend to be very lenient on defendants in situations where people got hurt in random, unforeseen ways. What riles juries is corporate arrogance -- managers who ignore *repeated* warnings about a dangerous problem, usually out of a belief that no one, either the government or a jury, will make them pay if something goes wrong. That's what got McDonald's nailed in the infamous spilled coffee case and that's what appears to have cost Six Flags here.

March 7, 2006 at 7:58 PM · It would be very hard to find who threw the rock unless there were solid witnesses or some survalience camera. Personally, I think Six Flags should be held a little accountable, but not to the amount of money she was awarded. Again, is this a big deal because the park lost or is it just on here because it is theme park related?
March 7, 2006 at 9:02 PM · I think that the park could be held a little accountable for allowing repeated incidents...if they were repeated. Six Flags must have a really crappy lawyer squad, because how could these "repeated offenses" have really been proven, and how could they let the "hot coffee argument" hold water. If somebody saw it happen a couple times, why didn't they ID who did it, and did they report it when they saw it, or later. Having rode the Villian quite a few times and having stood in line for it, I'm still trying to figure out the prime spot where someone could come back and throw rocks. As I said before, it's hard to have a security force that can police everywhere. I'm sure they had a guard checking it out, but who's going to throw a rock when there is a guard around, and wouldn't they throw a rock in some other part of the park if not there. The truth of it is this, if someone wants to throw something in an amusement park bad enough, they will do it and probably not get caught...doesn't matter which park...unless the guests who saw it happen step up to the plate. Security Guards and ride ops won't catch everybody. It's not like Six Flags Ohio...now Geauga Lake, is an indoor family fun center. It's a 600 acre amusement park. I just think that 3.6 million is a little harsh for something that could happen anytime, anywhere, at any place. You don't hear about NFL teams getting sued because of things that were thrown in the stands. Should parks be policed and rules be enforced...absolutely. However, for a park to shoulder the load of millions of dollars because a few unruly guests threw rocks is a little ridiculous to me.
March 8, 2006 at 9:13 AM · I'm surprised that major theme parks don't have security cameras all over the place. If Six Flags had been able to catch the perp in this case, I'd imagine that they'd be seen as much less liable. In the absence of the perp, though, I guess the jury figured that somebody should pay for the victim's grievous injuries.

Also, I wonder if this is in some way an indictment to Six Flags for attracting hooligan crowds. That's been a major problem with them for years.

March 9, 2006 at 12:44 PM · I totaly disagree that juries are reasonable.
Juries love too slam companies that they believe have deep pockets and are easily fooled by lawyers who sway them via sympathy/sad scak stories. i have been involved in a lot of civil cases/lawsuits and have seen numerous outrageous awards with little evidence but alot of sad stories. And then when you ad in the fact that during the process of picking a jury which is used to get rid of anyone with common sense, that ends up in awful ruling like this which costs everyone of us alot money.
They cant find the real culprit, so so big business is the motto in this case.
I guess SF should outlaw rocks within a mile of the radius of a theme park and do a rock check before you enter the parking lot to prevent this, and even if they did this it would still be easy to find a jury to give out a large award.
March 10, 2006 at 10:45 AM · Sorry, Robert O, but I've served on juries and I've spent countless hours in courthouses observing them. The canard that juries are out of control is simply political propaganda, funded in large part by companies that would prefer to avoid the expense of ever being held accountable for negligence, and spread by their allies in the conservative media.

No, Six Flags need not ban rocks. It simply needs to put GRASS under its coasters, especially when the company has been warned that people are lobbing rocks from underneath a coaster up on to its tracks. That's just common sense. And when a business ignores common sense and that results in someone's injury, a jury is gonna make 'em pay. As it should.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive