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Jury verdict for Six Flags over workers’ electrocution stands

Six Flags

An appellate court declined to overturn a jury trial verdict that declared Six Flags was not negligent for the injuries suffered by two workers who were electrocuted while repairing a ride.

In Ingram v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals for the 2nd District, Division Two, in Los Angeles affirmed the jury’s holding that Six Flags was not responsible for the accident because its policy at the Magic Mountain theme park forbids working on energized electrical equipment.

On Jan. 5, 2010, Kenneth Ingram and Rudy Vieane, electricians employed by Magic Mountain LLC, were working on the Roaring Rapids ride at the Valencia, California, theme park when an arc flash explosion occurred, leaving both men with serious burns. Before beginning work, Mr. Vieane thought he had deenergized the equipment, but the equipment was still energized and discharged 227 volts of electricity when Mr. Ingram tried to remove a lug nut from a control panel.

They sued Magic Mountain’s parent company, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. based in Grand Prairie, Texas, for negligence, arguing that Six Flags assumed responsibility for providing safety procedures and programs at the theme park and failed to provide appropriate personal protective equipment for the electricians.

Six Flags maintained a policy that electrical workers should not work on energize equipment and did not need to wear PPE if they were certain that equipment was not energized. In 2009, the company retained a consultant for the purposes of reducing arc flash risk, and the consultant labeled park equipment and conducted training. The consultant turned in his final report less than two months after the arc flash incident, and Six Flags finalized its safety program in March 2010. The company sought to exclude its post-incident safety program changes, which the trial court granted.

A jury returned a verdict in favor of Six Flags. The workers appealed the judgment and sought judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the grounds that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of a safety program that Six Flags implemented after the incident, and claiming that evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding.

The California Court of Appeals rejected the workers’ arguments, finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of a subsequent precautionary measure, which is inadmissible when used “to prove negligence or culpable conduct.” The court also found substantial evidence supporting Six Flag’s defense that no PPE was necessary for the electricians because company policy forbid them from working on energized electrical equipment.

Although the record showed it was feasible for Six Flags to provide PPE, the court dismissed the workers’ argument that it was necessary for the theme park to do so, acknowledging testimony that Magic Mountain workers received “adequate training on how to shut the power off prior to beginning work” and that the company had a strict policy against working on live equipment.

Attorneys in the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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