Personal Injury, Premises Liability, and Inherent Risk in Kentucky

Recently the California Supreme Court overturned an appeals court decision in a personal injury lawsuit involving an individual who was injured at an amusement park. The woman was riding on the bumper cars at Great America with her son when they were hit from the front and rear. She braced herself on the front of the car and broke her wrist. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the amusement park was not liable for her injury because there is an inherent risk in riding bumper cars and there was no negligence.

What is inherent risk? In the context of personal injury, it means that certain activities, because of their nature, may be dangerous. Trying to remove the inherent risk from such an activity would change the activity to such a degree that its appeal may be lost. In the California case mentioned above, the woman was injured when the bumper cars collided. To remove the inherent risk, the cars would have to not hit each other or the walls of the ride, which means they would no longer be “bumper” cars. This would change the entire experience of the ride and would make it less thrilling.

Kentucky is known worldwide for its horses, and horseback riding and other agricultural activities are very popular here. In any type of activity involving animals, there is an inherent risk. Animals are living creatures and are unpredictable. The Kentucky law regarding farm animal activities states:

The inherent risks of farm animal activities are deemed to be beyond the reasonable control of farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons. Therefore, farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons are deemed to have the duty to reasonably warn participants in farm animal activities of the inherent risks of the farm animal activities but not the duty to reduce or eliminate the inherent risks of farm animal activities. Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, no participant or representative of a participant who has been reasonably warned of the inherent risks of farm animal activities shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from a farm animal activity sponsor, a farm animal professional, or any other person for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of farm animal activities.

This means that the owner of an animal needs to tell the participant of the potential danger of interacting with the animals, but may not be held liable if an injury occurs. A similar Kentucky state law went into effect on July 11, 2012 for agritourism attractions, including orchards, wineries, or places that have activities such as corn mazes in the fall. These facilities are required to either post signs warning people of the inherent risks involved or have them sign waivers stating they understand the risks.

Does this mean that operators of these types of businesses can never be held liable for injuries incurred on their property? No. The state law goes on to say that if the injury was caused by the operator’s negligence, he can still be held liable for the injuries. For example, if the business owner provides faulty equipment, does not attempt to determine the consumer’s ability to safely interact with an animal, or does not do everything in his power to safely control a situation, he may still be liable if someone gets hurt.

Most people enjoy the thrill of an amusement park ride or the chance to participate in farm activities such as riding horses, petting animals, or picking apples. But they also need to realize that there is some risk involved that cannot be controlled. This definitely does not negate the business owner’s responsibility to provide as safe an experience as possible. Kentucky premises liability attorney Steve Frederick understands inherent risks and can help you determine if you have a personal injury case if you have been injured in this type of situation.

Sources:

California Supreme Court rejects lawsuit against Great America over bumper car rides; Mercury News; Howard Mintz; January 1, 2013

Kentucky Revised Statutes 247.402; effective July 15, 1996