Amusement law: Snakes Alive! Amusement Legal and Business Update

This weeka��s column starts out with an update to one of last weeka��s stories.

The UK’s Timesonline states that:

"The owner of , one of Europe’s leading theme-park operators, has hired investment bankers to advise on a possible $4.5 billion (£2.3 billion) bid for the American company behind Sea World and Busch Gardens.

Parques is unlikely to have a clear run at the Anheuser business – Merlin Entertainment, owner of Legoland, Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds, will also be interested."

Other reports indicate that Dubai World and even Disney may be interested (though a Disney purchase would seem to make very little sense considering that majority of Busch’s existing properties are located in the same general markets as Disney World and Disneyland). From  thisismoney.co.uk:

"Merlin Entertainments, which owns Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers, and the London Eye, will have to compete with the biggest theme park business in the world – Disney – in the race to take over the £1.5bn SeaWorld business in Florida."

Over in South Carolina, the new Hard Rock Park recently announced a set of layoffs that seems to give credence to the chatter floating about that the park is facing some major challenges in its first season. WIStv.com states:

"Hard Rock Park has laid off 30 employees just months after it opened in Myrtle Beach.

Park officials tell The Sun News of Myrtle Beach that both part-time and full-time employees lost their jobs earlier this week in several different operations at the amusement park."

The State of Florida has finished its investigation into a recent waterpark incident and released its findings. This from TCPalm.com:

"The family injured in a water slide accident at Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach was too heavy for a single raft and signs at the park made that clear, a state inspection report said Friday.

But the park did not properly supervise how the four family members were seated in the raft to best distribute the weight, said the report by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, which oversees amusement park rides.

Rapids Water Park disputed that, saying the family’s weight so far exceeded the limit that the inspector could not possibly know whether the positioning of the four had any bearing on the accident.

"You can’t state that that’s the cause unless you test a family the exact same size, " said water park spokeswoman Tina Hatcher."

The article includes a curious paragraph about a prospective second report by the state:

"The report does not answer questions about how much liability the park bears for the safety of patrons who don’t follow the posted safety rules. Another report will look at that question, said Department of Agriculture spokesman Terry McElroy.

"In this case, you had people who by their own admission greatly exceeded the weight limit, " he said. "The question is, what role and responsibility, if any, does the park have other than putting out warning signs on the ride that these are the weight limits and this is how it is to be distributed."

He added: "People get larger, rides get faster and more thrill-seeking and all of these require all the more vigilance on the part of the patrons to follow instructions and all the more vigilance on the part of the park personnel to see that they are followed."

What’s curious about this is why would the state’s inspection department be issuing a report on “how much liability the park bears”?  Not only does that turn of phrase seem to assume that some liability exists, but it also strikes us as a role for the judiciary, if anyone, to determine. 

Meanwhile, as myfoxatlanta.com reports, an Atlanta TV station is reporting on allegations of a unique form of sexual harassment at one area park.

 

The twist? 

The harassment allegedly occurred via text messaging.  Looks like technology may be pushing operators toward an update to employee manuals and training once again.

Finally, there’s this strange story from www.chron.com out of Houston involving an amusement facility, a very poisonous snake, and lie detector testing:

"The case of the missing bush viper took on the tone of a CSI episode Monday as investigators deepened their probe into how the poisonous reptile went missing.

Twice now, the snake has disappeared from its exhibit at Moody Gardens.

The first time it simply reappeared after a two-day search. On Friday it vanished again and has not been seen since.

Now, Galveston police want answers.

Does someone know what happened to the snake but isn’t telling? And did someone tamper with a hasp on the viper’s cage?

At least three employees who had contact with the bush viper will be tested on a polygraph machine, Galveston police Detective Michelle Sollenberger said Monday. Others could follow.

Polygraph test results are generally not used in court, Sollenberger said, but they can be helpful in an investigation."