In the U.S., millions of people of all ages visit theme parks each year. The initial fear of a ride usually stems from a possibility of accidents or the feeling of being out of control. Most people overcome their fears by assuring themselves that the rides offer a “safe” thrill. This unfortunately was not the case for Shatoya Meeks, who visited Six Flags Great America in July 2011, one of the nation’s largest theme parks. Meeks was taken to the hospital after she sustained injuries to her wrist and hands while riding Wahoo Racer at the Gurnee at Hurricane Harbor Water Park. Meeks’ attorneys claimed that Six Flags personnel failed to operate the slide properly, failed to inspect the ride prior to opening, and failed to warn park customers of the present dangers.
The court ruled in favor of Meeks and upheld a $1.5 million judgment against Six Flags Great America. Lake County Judge Diane Winter told the jurors that Great America had failed to make available the testimony of the park workers and medical attendant, along with a witness statement and lifeguard rescue report. Six Flags’ attorneys argued that the jury instructions were unfair and that the trial should have been delayed to a later date, but the appellate court stated that in order to dispute any negative inferences they would have to show the slide was operated safely. Despite surgery, Meeks has not regained full mobility in her hand and is unable to work at her job as an administrative assistant, and do simple duties around the house like cook for her children. What was supposed to be a fun day at the waterpark quickly turned into a lifetime of doctors’ visits, medical bills, and emotional strain for Meeks.