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For the month of August, Econ Extra Credit invites you to view the film “Class Action Park”, which is available for streaming on HBO Max with a subscription. We hope you’ll watch and then send us your thoughts, questions and stories. Contact us by email at [email protected]


Despite the catchy name, the people who described the New Jersey-based amusement park Action Park as “Class Action Park” weren’t necessarily doing their due diligence to find out if it was factual. Although there have been over 100 lawsuits related to the park, there is no evidence that we have found any class action lawsuits related to the park anyway. Once you understand the basics of tort law, you’ll understand why.

For an introduction, “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio reached out to Bill Childs, an adjunct professor at Minnesota’s Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who teaches an amusement park tort law course. , including Action Park.

The following is an edited excerpt from their conversation. You can also listen to the audio version here.

David Brancacio: What is tort law?

Bill Childs: It’s basically a civil action where someone believes they’ve been harmed by someone else acting negligently, [which means] failing to act with due diligence in the circumstances.

Brancacio: And it exists so that ordinary people can have a chance at redress from a larger organization that they believe has wronged them?

Children : Right. Basically, if you think you’ve been hurt and you think you should get some sort of civil law remedy, [with] nobody’s going to jail, so it’s probably going to be in the misdemeanor category.

Brancacio: Planners of future water parks could watch this movie and learn what not to do, based on Action Park’s terrifying safety record. But what can law students learn by watching this film with you?

Children : I think [what] What’s most interesting about Action Park is how different it is from anything in existence today, where the rider was, the patron – and that was actually the motto of Action Park – “the center of the action”. They had so much control over their own experience, which was, on the one hand, presumably super fun, but on the other hand, there were many ways they [could] encounter a risk.

  Brancacio: One would think that the bad press, the ugly publicity of people being injured or dying in the water park, might have helped apply market pressure to make the park safer or shut it down. But that did not happen in this case.

Children : Yes, I don’t mean to suggest that the owners and operators of Action Park wanted their customers to get hurt, but the market pressures seemed to be a little skewed because at Action Park, the real risks seemed like an attraction… knowing that there was real, literal danger, I think that was considered positive.

Brancacio: Many of us may not want to live in a world where we cannot be allowed to take what you might describe as “reasonable risks”.

Children : Yeah, so there are a few different ideas there. There’s the idea of ​​”inherent risks,” the most prevalent types in skiing. If you end up hurting yourself because of a risk inherent in skiing, then generally speaking, as long as the ski resort hasn’t done anything to aggravate that risk, they don’t have the right for you. obligation to prevent you from falling on other skiers or in trees or whatever.

And then there may also be contractual means of limiting liability. Some amusement parks have express waivers, but it’s more common at things like high ropes courses or more extreme haunted houses.

And there’s just the general doctrine of “you knew what the risk was when you got on that ride.” And you assumed that risk.

Brancacio: Now the movie is called “Class Action Park”. It was one of the place’s ironically dark nicknames. “Traction Park” was another as you might need to be put in traction in the hospital after a visit. You are a lawyer. “Class Action Park” seems like a misnomer, really.

Children : Class action lawsuits are usually when a large group of people have been hurt in some way that they can really get the same thing back all together. So if the park had taken an additional 10 cent charge on every credit card transaction without telling you, it could be a class action lawsuit. But the class action is almost never applicable in the context of bodily injury.

Brancacio: And that’s because it’s hard to create a “class” when the injuries would have been, you know, different in many cases.

Children : Yeah. And everyone has different pre-existing conditions and levels of their own fault in situations. It’s just too much variability for a “class” to be the right way to go about it.

Can you still get damages if you are partly at fault? It depends on where you live.

In “Class Action Park”, there were countless examples of teenagers and young adults engaging in risky and foolish behaviors in the park that led to minor and serious accidents. But even when patrons acted like jerks, Action Park owners could still have to pay damages for injuries that occurred at the park.

That’s because New Jersey state law allows judges and juries to compare, for example, an individual’s failure to take proper precautions while riding a waterslide, as instructed, against the failure of the park to take care to design a safe waterslide that wouldn’t hit riders’ teeth. In tort law, this doctrine is known as “comparative negligence” or “comparative fault”.

But in other states, the laws are stricter, as they follow a legal doctrine called “contributory negligence,” which prohibits someone from collecting damages if their actions contributed to the injury in any way. . This type of law would prevent, for example, a person injured in a car accident from suffering damage if it was discovered that he was driving recklessly at the time of the accident or that he was not wearing his seat belt.

“To put in a non-technical way, [if you are] cavorting too much…a court could find you contributory negligent,” Keith Hylton, a Boston University law professor, told David Brancaccio in “Marketplace Morning Report.”

“You have the right to make mistakes, but there is a certain point when you can go too far.”

For a better understanding of how different states incorporate fault into tort, check out this map of the United States

Discover more stories related to “Class Action Park”

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