A bar injury involving a mechanical bull resulted in an $81,000 settlement prior to trial, after a customer was thrown violently from the ride, suffering a broken ankle, torn ligament and other injuries. The same bar has paid at least $200,000 in damages to at least six other patrons who suffered similar injuries over a ten-year time frame.
Mechanical bulls are a staple at some Western-themed bars across the U.S., including in Florida. This particular case occurred in New York, but the same basic legal theory of premises liability applies.
Property owners and property managers have a responsibility to make sure their site is reasonably safe for paying customers (also known as “business invitees”). That means addressing conditions that are unreasonably dangerous, and warning customers about them if there are no immediate fixes. It’s unclear in this case whether there were any warnings or liability waivers signed by those who rode the bull, but defendants in these cases have been known to assert the defense that claimants assumed the risk when they chose to ride.
In Florida, there was a recent case wherein Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled in a slip-and-fall case that the assumption of risk doctrine applied only to cases involving contact sports or express contracts not to sue. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in the 1989 decision of Mazzeo v. City of Sebastian that the affirmative defense of implied assumption of risk would be merged into the defense of contributory negligence and the principles of comparative negligence. In other words, defendants can assert that certain risks were implied as part of their comparative fault defense, as outlined in F.S. 768.81.
When it comes to mechanical bull injuries, there aren’t any new statistics. A 1982 study published in the Southern Medical Journal noted that while the machine was originally invented to teach actual cowboys how to prepare for a rodeo, thousands of the machines are now used at night clubs, bars and amusement parks across the country. The journal noted at least 84 such injuries at a single hospital, with the most common injury being to the groin and lower extremities, as well as to the thumb (where patrons hold their thumb against the horn of the machine).
In the recent New York case, plaintiff alleged he had to undergo numerous surgeries and suffered through a “very painful” recovery. Other customers had sued this very same bar for reportedly debilitating injuries after she was thrown violently from the machine before having a chance to properly mount it. At the time, she was allegedly visibly drunk and suffered a torn ACL and had to undergo surgery. In yet another case, an employee reportedly was thrown from the bull and lost several teeth. Another man claimed he suffered a fractured leg after the operator of the bull’s operator threw him off it before he had a chance to sit down.
Despite these lawsuits, the mechanical bull is still in use at the bar, with the facility continuing to promote the feature, encouraging customers to “getbucked.”
Our Orlando injury lawyers know that bars that keep mechanical bulls are likely to keep insurance policies that reflect the fact that it is a high-risk operation.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Johnny Utah’s Mechanical Bull Costs Bar Nearly $200K in Injury Settlements, Aug. 1, 2017, By Maya Rajamani, DNAInfo.com
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