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DFW - Texas Giant Roller Coaster - 1 dead due to defective lap bar

Photo: DFW.com

The media reports that Rosy Esparza boarded the "Texas Giant" roller coaster in Arlington, Texas, and expressed concern that her restraint system, or "lap bar," was not sufficiently securing her.  Tragically, during the ride Ms. Esparza flew out of the roller coaster.

In reading about this incident, I am shocked at how similar this event is to the event in which we represented a teenager who flew out of a roller coaster at Astroworld in Houston, Texas because of a faulty restraint bar (the link includes a video of an extensive TV news story on this roller coaster case).  Our case involved an indoor roller coaster, called the "Mayan Mindbender."  As the car was making a sharp turn, our client flew out.  Fortunately, his injuries were not fatal, however, they were very serious.

Six Flags representatives were dismissive when our client's father contacted them about paying the 6-figure hospital bills incurred by his teenaged son.  The Six Flags adjuster told the father that his son was to blame for what happened - they said his son "stood up" during the ride, and that was why he flew out.  They said it had nothing to do with the lap bar or any part of the restraint system.  Six Flags said it would pay absolutely nothing to the family.

I imagine the family of Rosy Esparza is hearing the same thing from Six Flags, or will hear that very soon.  I am quite sure Six Flags will deny any responsibility for what happened to Ms. Esparza, no matter what evidence they find, and they will offer nothing at all to the family for what happened.

In our case, the father hired our law firm to pursue the claim against Six Flags.  Our client told us that the lap bar on his ride simply opened up, and he was thrust out of his seat when the roller coaster car made a sharp turn.  This is similar to Ms. Esparza's reported complaint to the roller coaster operator, where she expressed concern that she was not properly secured in the ride.

We sued Six Flags, and you won't believe the evidence we uncovered.  We obtained  Six Flags documents that said the lap bar in the car our client was riding in had an "intermittent locking malfunction."  This means that sometimes the lap bar will unlock on its own.  These documents were created before our client was thrown out of the coaster - so Six Flags knew about this problem.  This evidence supported our client's version of the event 100%, and contradicted what Six Flags was claiming.  It was very disturbing that Six Flags had the evidence of the lap bar locking malfunction when they told our client's father that his son was to blame for the accident on its roller coaster.

I would not be surprised if Six Flags currently has evidence that supports the claim of the family of Rosy Esparza, and that the company will try to blame Ms. Esparza despite such evidence.  If a lawsuit is filed by Ms. Esparza's family, it will be very interesting to look at the maintenance and repair records for the car that Ms. Esparza was occupying at the time of her incident.

In our roller coaster lawsuit against Six Flags, the company continued to deny any responsibility and continued to fight us even after we obtained evidence of the restraint system malfunction.  So we hired an amusement park expert; we went out to the Six Flags roller coaster, tested it, and our expert concluded the accident occurred because of the defective lap bar that had an intermittent locking malfunction.  

Six Flags hired their own roller coaster expert, who performed a test that supported our claim.  Yet, even after this, Six Flags continued to fight us.

We continued to fight, uncovering evidence that the Six Flags roller coaster operators were not trained and really didn't know what they were doing.  It's not their fault, they were mostly teenagers working a summer job. But a large corporation like Six Flags should put the safety of its customers in the hands of operators who are more qualified.  Why does Six Flags place the safety of its customers in the hands of young summer workers?  I suspect it has to do with the fact that Six Flags can pay minimum wage for summer jobs.

After much hard work and negotiations, we finally achieved a settlement of the case for $1,700,000.  Part of these funds were used to set up a structured annuity for our client, and he continues to benefit from these finances today.

Rosy Esparza expressed concern about her lap bar.  The Six Flags operator, who was probably young and had minimal training, ignored Ms. Esparza's concerns and sent her off on the roller coaster ride.  

If the family of Ms. Esparza pursues a claim against Six Flags, which they should, it is going to be a long battle.  They will never prevail if they try to do it without an attorney.  However, with a qualified attorney with experience handling amusement park lawsuits against Six Flags on their side, the family should prevail in a civil suit.

In a civil suit, the family will be entitled to see the maintenance and repair records of the Texas Giant roller coaster, as well as employment records of the operator who allowed Ms. Esparza to ride the roller coaster even after she expressed concern about the lap bar.  And, hopefully an example can be set and a message sent to the amusement park industry to show more concern about the safety of their customers.

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