Amusement Law : How IALDA Serves the Amusement Park Industry, Legally Speaking

Many industries have lawyers who specialize in legal issues that matter most to that particular industry.

Known as the International Amusement & Leisure Defense Association (www.ialda.org), IALDA offers national (and even international) expertise in legal issues faced by amusement operators and manufacturers.

Lary Zucker, an attorney with Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in New Jersey and one of IALDA’s founding members, recently recalled the impetus for starting the IALDA.  According to Zucker, he and two other founding attorneys, Kurt Anselmi and Michael Amaro, became acquainted by attending the annual Roller Skating Association convention in the 1980s. There, they began to discuss some of the legal issues that regularly arose in the recreation industry. 

Those conversations continued as the group expanded to include other like-minded attorneys who frequently met up for a legal roundtable at the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo.  Soon, the attorneys realized that their efforts to assist the amusement industry could be better served through a more formal relationship.  IALDA was formally established in 1993.

To date, the group has advised hundreds of clients and industry participants on a wide scope of legal issues germane to amusement operators and manufacturers.  These have ranged from litigation matters, to contract drafting, and intellectual property support.  One secret to the group’s success has been to foster cooperative relationships among the attorneys.  “IALDA has never been about the promotion of one member – and those who felt otherwise have gone off on their own, ” explains Zucker.

This approach has allowed IALDA to provide three main benefits to the industry as a whole:  education, informal support, and formal representation.

Educational Sessions at IAAPA and Elsewhere

IALDA members regularly present at a host of industry conferences such as the World Waterpark Association, FunExpo, and Association of Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers events.  Indeed, this year in Orlando at the IAAPA convention, IALDA members will present on a wide variety of topics ranging from American with Disabilities (“ADA”) legal issues to strategies for avoiding legal claims in the first place (hint: much of the day on Thursday, November 20th at IAAPA is filled with legal and regulatory sessions).

According to IALDA Vice President Joe Hassinger, with the New Orleans firm of Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, “IALDA [allows] operators, manufacturers, defense counsel and insurance leaders to develop best practices to both prevent injuries and successfully defend against claims [by] providing education and training seminars that enhance every aspect of the industry.”

Attendees to these sessions get access to the successful strategies (and lessons learned) from attorneys with years of amusement industry experience.  A great opportunity considering that, were you to pay for such advice individually, the fees would likely be quite large. This makes attendance at an IALDA-led educational session not only a useful learning experience but also a judicious investment.

These Three Lawyers Walk Into a Conference Room…

Once the educational sessions end, the usefulness of IALDA attorneys is just beginning.

As Michael Amaro, an attorney with Prindle, Decker & Amaro, who is also a Past President of IALDA, explains, “The informal exchange of ‘legal’ information between IALDA members at the many industry trade shows is invaluable.  So much is learned about new case law, legislation in other states, local state and federal government regulation, new or emerging theories of liability, and creative defense theories or themes. . . The wealth of knowledge gained is immeasurable.  ”

This is especially true when you consider that this informal advice is also typically free of charge—oftentimes found before or after the educational sessions as IALDA attorneys answer inquiries from attendees.  Indeed, I’ve personally encountered this informal exchange while touring the IAAPA trade show floor with IALDA attorneys when exhibitors and attendees alike have stopped them for a quick informal legal Q&A.

It’s this type of approachability and willingness to provide industry-specific legal support that has generated such strong support for IALDA among many amusement professionals.

Entertainment Industry Advocates

IALDA attorneys have successfully represented hundreds of clients—from small local facilities to multi-national industry players—in a wide variety of lawsuits stemming from personal injuries, business disputes, and similar legal challenges.

In addition to representing amusement clients in actual lawsuits, IALDA members have also taken the lead in a host of legislative and regulatory matters.  For instance, IALDA President, David Daly of the Massachusetts-based firm Daly Cavanaugh, notes that “the group is able to draw on the diverse knowledge of members across the country so that in addition to leadership on national regulatory matters, IALDA members can also assist and consult with each other on regional and even local legislative issues.”  The result is that IALDA attorneys play prominent roles in advocating for Congressional and state legislative matters that affect the amusement industry.

These types of formal relationships represent the benefit of having a national association of attorneys focused on legal and legislative specific to the amusement industry.  Meaning that, if you hire an IALDA attorney to represent your interests, you can safely assume that the attorney is well-connected to other members who can similarly talk strategy on a wide variety of matters facing this high profile industry.

Taking the Amusement Business Seriously

Rather than compete for every single client and every single case, the “IALDA Model, ” as Zucker calls it, is based on the idea that collaborating with others will result in better business for everyone.  After all, as many participants would quickly note, the amusement industry continues to be the target of frequent lawsuits.  Therefore, if organized and cooperative, there’s likely enough work to go around for many different attorneys.

Of course, that’s not to say that all attorneys who represent amusement clients are members of IALDA.  But contacting IALDA is likely to be a wise first move for amusement operators or manufacturers seeking specialized legal assistance – because there’s nothing amusing about an amusement park lawsuit.

As Zucker explains,   “today, the IALDA network  is recognized throughout the broad amusement and leisure industry for our track record of successful advocacy on behalf of amusement parks, water parks, bowling centers, roller skating rinks, FECs, amateur and professional sports teams, go Kart tracks, mini golf and more; IALDA includes some of the best lawyers in the country. Our membership is expanding and other industries are adopting the IALDA model.”

See also:

Halloween Risk Management for Amusement Parks: Curbing the Scary Specter of Legal Liability

Amusement Law : Theme Park Trends in Central Florida and the Game of "What-If?"

Amusement law: Snakes Alive! Amusement Legal and Business Update

 Amusement Law: As the Summer Season Winds Down…