Can you sue an amusement park for wrongful death in Colorado?

Denver, CO – The summer holidays are right around the corner and many Denver residents are busily making plans for their kids’ vacation. However, when thinking about visiting an amusement park, many will remember the tragic accident at the Glenwood Caverns Amusement Park last autumn, when a 6-year-old girl fell to her death from a ride. The tragedy brought to light a fact most holiday-makers are unaware of. If you are injured or if someone dies in an accident in an amusement park, you may not be able to file a lawsuit or claim damages. There’s a very simple explanation to that – you have unwittingly waived your rights by purchasing a ticket. 

The Wongel Estifanos wrongful death lawsuit

On Labor Day 2021, little Wongel Estifanos boarded the Haunted Mine Drop, a ride that features a 110-foot drop into a tunnel, with her uncle and a few relatives. The girl died after falling from the ride during the vertical free-fall that plunges down a mine shaft in about 2.5 seconds. The inquest established that the girl had not been properly buckled in and was, in fact, sitting on top of the seat belts. The safety mechanism sounded an alarm before the ride, but the staff simply reset it without bothering to check on the people that had boarded the ride. This ghastly mistake allowed them to override the safety system, sending the ride in motion and the little girl to certain death.

The girl’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit one month after the terrible accident, but their chances of success are unclear. To complicate matters, the DA decided not to press charges against the owners of the amusement park or the operators directly responsible for the girl’s death. 

The decision came as a shock to the Wongel family, as the state investigation found that the staff was not adequately trained and they made several errors that contributed to the girl’s death. The amusement park paid a $68,000 fine and that’s all. 

The wrongful death lawsuit can go on as this has nothing to do with the criminal side of the case. However, it is unclear if the family will win the case as Colorado amusement park laws are quite permissive. 

The park may not be liable for damages

Under Colorado law, visitors to an amusement park who sign a waiver agree “to let a business act negligently,” according to University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor Tom Russell, quoted by The Denver Post. Also, unlike in other states, in Colorado, a parent can waive liability for their children. “That Colorado allows for this is amoral. It disregards children,” Russell said.

In some parks, they present you with a small piece of paper to sign. With all the excitement going around, no one will read the paper, and they’ll sign it without realizing that the park and its employees will not be held accountable if an accident happens. In other cases, you waive your rights by buying a ticket for a ride.

The Glenwood Caverns park has a liability waiver on its website saying that anyone wanting to use the attractions – including the Mine Drop – specifically acknowledges that it is hazardous and “involves the risk of physical injury or death.” The riders “take full responsibility for any injury, including death” and waive all legal claims against Glenwood Caverns, including for “actual or alleged negligence.”

If you’re planning to visit an amusement park in Colorado, you should double-check their terms and conditions to make sure your rights are protected. And look after your little ones.

If someone you loved was recently killed in an accident caused by negligence, you should contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer at the Bryan & Terrill law firm to see what sort of damages your family is entitled to.

Contact info:

Bryan & Terrill

333 W. Hampden Ave., #420B

Englewood, CO 80110

(720) 923-2333

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