Chapter 3: Amusement Parks

§3.1 Liability of Operator

The Case: Loope v. Goodings Million Dollar Midways, Inc. , 553 S.W. 2d 573 (Tenn. 1977).

The Basic Facts: Female Plaintiff received an electrical shock while attempting to board a midway ride at the Knox County Fair. Defendant appealed a jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff and her husband.

The Bottom Line:

  • "[Ride operator] owed the highest degree of care to its patrons, or that degree of care which the most prudent person would be expected to exercise in the maintenance, inspection and repair of such equipment." 553 S.W. 2d at 574.
  • "[C]onduct by one charged only with ordinary care might amount to simple negligence, but when done by a person charged with a higher degree of care, such as a common carrier or a supplier of electricity, that same conduct could amount to gross negligence or to willful and wanton conduct justifying an award of punitive damages." Id. at 575.

Other Sources of Note: The Loope Court cited with approval the decision in Lyons v. Wagers, 404 S.W.2d 770 (Tenn. Ct. .App. 1966). The Lyons Court stated "that the operator of an amusement ride owes his patrons the same degree of care owed by a common carrier to its passengers, which is 'the highest degree of care - that care which the most prudent man would be expected to exercise under circumstances similar to those shown in evidence, in the design, construction, maintenance, inspection, and repair of his vehicle and its approaches and exits.'" Id. at 274.

There is an extensive discussion of the liability of the property owner (as distinguished from the ride operator) in Lyons. Readers who are researching the liability of a property owner may wish to review the discussion of this issue in the Lyons opinion. There is not a separate section addressing the liability of the property owner because of the substantial changes in premises liability law in Tennessee since 1966 and because there are no decisions that discuss the issue since the law has changed .

There are numerous statutes that address the business of amusement rides. They are codified at Tenn. Code Ann.§ 68-121-101, et seq.

§3.2 Liability for Punitive Damages

The Case: Loope v. Goodings Million Dollar Midways, Inc. , 553 S.W. 2d 573 (Tenn. 1977).

The Basic Facts: Female Plaintiff received an electrical shock while attempting to board a midway ride at the Knox County Fair. Defendant appealed a jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff and her husband.

The Bottom Line:

  • "[C]onduct by one charged only with ordinary care might amount to simple negligence, but when done by a person charged with a higher degree of care, such as a common carrier or a supplier of electricity, that same conduct could amount to gross negligence or to willful and wanton conduct justifying an award of punitive damages." 553 S.W. 2d at 575.

Other Sources of Note: The law of punitive damages is discussed in Chapter 64 of this book.

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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