Amusement Ride Injury Prompts Maine Safety Regulation Bill

Following the death of a teen girl on a hayride last fall, Maine lawmakers are searching for way to tighten amusement park regulations and restrictions, to ensure similar tragedies never happen again.

Recently, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee weighed testimony from one lawmaker sponsoring a bill named after the teen that would enhance protections for those who pay money to go on amusement park rides in this state.

The measure, “Cassidy’s Law,” is formally titled LD 1057, An Act to Increase the Safety of Amusement Park Rides. It bears the name of the high school junior who was killed in Mechanic Falls when a 197os-model Jeep hauling a trailer with 20 people on it careened off the trail and into a cluster of trees at a “haunted” hayride offering at a local farm festival.

Exempt from regulations proposed in the bill would be those who give rides free of charge on farm equipment. As an example, Rep. Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, the sponsor of the measure, told legislators it wouldn’t apply to a pumpkin farmer who offered rides to customers who came to view the patch and choose a pumpkin or two or visitors to an apple orchard who came to pick some fruit. Instead, the new law would be solely applicable to those who charge money to customers for rides.

In these situations, the representative said, people who give money to take a ride should be able to reasonably expect someone with a degree of expertise has weighed the circumstances, inspected the vehicles and trailers and considered all relevant factors in determining that it’s safe. He said that when that tragic accident occurred last year, it was later revealed no one had inspected the vehicle for safety. No one determined how many people could safely ride on that trailer or what was the maximum speed it should be traveling or what qualifications the driver should have.

As it pertains to almost all vehicles driven on public roads in this state, the law requires a yearly inspection for safety and vehicle owners must prominently affix a sticker indicating the vehicle has been checked. However, farm vehicles are most often exempt, and these include trailers and tractors.

The new proposal would require hayride operations to undergo careful inspection and permitting, similar to other types of amusement park rides. For example, when it comes to rides at fairs or carnivals, it is the state fire marshal that inspects and permits all of those rides.

LD1057 doesn’t specify the permitting agency, and the¬† Maine fire marshal has indicated it likely doesn’t have the resources to initiate permitting for hayrides along with everything else. Doing so would likely cost the agency an additional $20,000 annually – and that’s before the start-up costs of training inspectors. Still, that agency has assisted local and state police in the investigation, which is still ongoing.

Another possible regulatory agency that might take charge of such inspections would be the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement arm of the state police.

A preliminary count revealed there are approximately 100 or so hayride operations running across the state at various times.

Start-up costs for such a program may seem daunting, but legislators say they intend to press forward, suggesting perhaps that these costs might be offset to some degree with permitting fees paid by the operators.

Even if the law is not passed, these companies, property owners, vehicle owners and vehicle drivers may still be held legally liable for any injuries or deaths caused by their negligence. What is not clear is the kind of insurance each entity had, and how that might be applied to these situations.

That’s why only an experienced personal injury lawyer should weigh in any amusement ride child injury case.

If you are dealing with an injury accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

‘Cassidy’s Law’ aims to tighten Maine’s amusement ride safety laws, April 27, 2015, By Scott Thistle, Bangor Daily News

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