Law and Amusement Rides
Amusement rides, whether in a fixed location or assembled temporarily, are a fun part of Summertime in Tennessee. However, in light of the recent tragedies in Kansas City and closer to home in Greene County, many are asking what is required of amusement rides and their operators under Tennessee law.
In our daily lives we are all required under the law to exercise the same degree of care that a reasonable person would in a similar circumstance. However, some activities are held to a higher degree of care than others because of the type of activity performed and sometimes by inviting the public to participate. Under Tennessee law an amusement ride operator is held to the highest standard of care. This means that an amusement ride operator must be more careful than a reasonable person in the design, construction, maintenance, inspection, and repair of the ride. The operator must act with an abundance of care for the safety of his or her patrons and thoughtfully consider the consequences to those patrons. If an amusement ride operator does not meet this standard, the operator may be liable for any resulting injuries.
However, under Tennessee law if an amusement ride operator acts in reckless disregard for the safety of its patrons or their acts or omission reveal an indifference to the resulting consequences, they may also be subject to an award of damages beyond the actual harm caused to the patron. These damages are called punitive damages and are intended to punish or deter future wrongdoing. So, if an operator had actual notice of a danger to his or her patrons and thereafter riders were injured, The Tennessee Supreme Court has found that punitive damages are appropriate.
There have been recent changes to Tennessee’s regulations regarding amusement ride inspections and permitting. Effective on July 1, 2016, several provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68 and Chapters 121 and 122 were removed or altered. The bill can be found at http://share.tn.gov/sos/acts/109/pub/pc0815.pdf. Tennessee authorities do not conduct inspections of amusement rides. Rather, amusement ride operators are required to have a “qualified” inspector inspect the amusement device at least once annually to qualify that the device meets American Society of Testing Materials standards.
No one wants to see any injuries, serious or otherwise, as a result of accidents on amusement rides. We hope this article assists the reader in better understanding Tennessee law and the responsibilities amusement ride operators owe their patrons.