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Teen’s Head Injury on Universal Studios Ride Leads to Lawsuit

Florida is renowned for its water parks and theme parks – from the obvious draws like Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando to Tampa’s Adventure Island, Destin’s Big Kahuna’s Waterpark and Winterhaven’s Legoland. Amusement parks are big business in the Sunshine State, drawing in many millions of visitors (Disney World’s Magic Kingdom alone has more than 20 million visitors annually) who collectively pay billions for the experience. 

But with this benefit comes a huge responsibility: To keep visitors reasonably safe from foreseeable harms.

When businesses fail to do this and it results in a personal injury, it can be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit. Examples might include the failure to clean up a spill resulting in a slip-and-fall or the failure to properly manage a busy parking lot, resulting in a vehicle-versus-pedestrian accident. 

Recently, a 13-year-old girl alleged a serious head injury after falling from a raft during a ride at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Her father on her behalf filed the amusement park injury lawsuit in Orange Circuit Court, naming NBCUniversal Media as the primary defendant. The ride had reportedly been open just three months at the time of the injury, according to The Orlando Sentinel. According to the filing, the ride seats six people at a time on a raft that travels through a cavern that is dark and winding. Riders are supposed to feel their stomachs flip with the sensation of zero gravity when they are shot out into the far side of a long tunnel, splashing “safely” to the bottom – or that’s the plan from the marketing materials anyway. In this case, when the girl was on the ride last August during a trip with her family, she flipped off the raft when it reached the end. As she fell, the foot of another reportedly smashed into her head. The teen was allegedly trapped under the 200-pound raft as it began moving to the splash pool. She reportedly lost consciousness and nearly drowned because she was trapped underneath the raft.

The lawsuit alleges the girl suffered a head injury that has resulted in long-term vision problems, serious headaches and paralyzing dizziness – among other health issues. A one-time swim team member, she now insists she never wants to go near the water again. She suffers ongoing nightmares about being trapped underwater.

Paramedics reportedly rushed the girl to a local hospital and after receiving triage and treatment, she was taken to a hospital in Pennsylvania, where she sought brain and vision specialists closer to where she lives. The incident highlights a flaw in the requirement that Florida theme parks report to the state any injury or health-related issues of visitors that require more than 24 hours of hospitalization. In this case, although the girl’s injuries were reportedly quite serious, it does not appear she was in a Florida hospital for more than 24 hours. The park never reported this incident – or any injuries at this ride since it opened.

Plaintiffs accuse the company of negligently designing, maintaining and supervising a the water slide. They say video footage of the incident exists, but defendants have refused to release it. If that is truly the case, a judge could compel release of the footage during the discovery phase of the trial. If the park has destroyed or damaged it – knowing it was possible or likely to be central in this injury lawsuit, the judge could impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence.

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.

Additional Resources:

Lawsuit against Universal alleges Volcano Bay head injury to teen, April 17, 2018, By Gabrielle Russon, The Orlando Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Court: Colleges Owe Duty of Care to Protect Students, April 11, 2018, Orlando Amusement Park Injury Attorney Blog

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