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Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co.

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co.
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    Brief Fact Summary. A young man (Plaintiff) was injured on Steeplechase Amusement Co.’s (Defendant’s) amusement park ride, “The Flopper.” Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. One who takes part in a sport accepts the dangers that are inherent in it so far as they are obvious and necessary.

    Facts. Defendant maintains an amusement park. “The Flopper” is an attraction at Defendant’s park. It consists of a moving belt, running upward on an inclined plane, on which passengers sit or stand. Many patrons are unable to keep their footing because of the movement of the belt and are thrown backwards or aside. Plaintiff visited Defendant’s park and stepped upon the moving belt of “The Flopper.” As he did so, he felt what he describes as a sudden jerk, and was thrown to the floor. His wife in front of him and friends behind him were thrown at the same time. Plaintiff suffered a fractured kneecap. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. In his claim for negligence, Plaintiff argued that the belt was dangerous to life and limb in that it stopped and started violently and suddenly and was not properly equipped to prevent injuries to people who were using it without knowledge of its dangers. Plaintiff also argued that “The Flopper” was operated at a fast and dangerous speed and shoul
    d have been supplied with proper railing or guard. The lower court returned a verdict for Plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Is Defendant (an amusement park) liable for damages to Plaintiff who is hurt on a ride when it is reasonably foreseeable that some danger is involved?

    Held. No. Judgment reversed. New trial granted.
    * The sudden jerk experienced by Plaintiff is irrelevant because the risk of a jerk was a fall. Plaintiff knew he was subjecting himself to a jerk. A jerk was the very hazard that was invited and foreseen.
    * One who takes part in a sport accepts the dangers that are obvious and necessary. In this case, Plaintiff stepped on The Flopper to be jerked and thrown. It was obvious for Plaintiff to see the possibility that he might fall down. Moreover, people expected The Flopper to jerk and try to knock them down. It was necessary aspect of the ride’s success as evidenced by its name, “The Flopper.”
    * It is a different case if the dangers inherent in the sport were obscure or unobserved, or so serious as to justify the belief that precautions of some kind must have been taken to avert them. This is not the case.
    * Plaintiff claims he fell on wood and that the padding was defective or inadequate. He is strongly contradicted by the photographs and witness’ testimony. The padding should have been kept in repair to break the force of any fall. However the case did not go to the jury for inadequate or defective padding. It went to the jury for the sudden jerk of the ride.

    Discussion. In this case, Plaintiff assumed the risk of a sudden jerk when he stepped on the moving belt of “The Flopper.” It was fairly obvious what the ride entailed and there were no hidden surprises. Plaintiff assumed the risk of a sudden jerk. Defendant is not liable to Plaintiff on a theory of negligence for an obvious and necessary sudden jerk



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