How much would you pay for the thrill of a lifetime? Los Angeles, California created an open glass-enclosed slide attached to the exterior of a downtown skyscraper. The slide is one thousand feet above Los Angeles and is one of the newest tourist attractions in the city. Called the “Skyslide,” the slide is a 45-foot long glass tube attached to the side of the city’s U.S. Bank tower. The tower is owned by a Singapore-based real estate company, OUE Skyspace LLC, who bought the tower three years ago and invested $50 million to renovate the building. The cost to ride is $33 and opened last month. It is said to offer riders the thrill of a lifetime.
But now the tower is faced with its first lawsuit only a month after its grand opening. A woman visiting Los Angeles with her husband from Woodmere, New York, claims she suffered a broken ankle sliding down the slide. Her complaint alleges OUE Skyspace LLC is negligent for failing to slow the rider down enough before reaching the end of the slide. Currently, there are a stack of mats in the runout area that “catches” the rider. According to the complaint, there was a gap that trapped the plaintiff’s feet and caused her ankle to break.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is the most common type of personal injury lawsuit. Negligence is the failure to use the amount of care that an ordinary person would in similar circumstances. In layman terms, negligence means that a person or entity acted in a careless (or negligent) manner. As a direct result of the negligence, someone was injured or property was damaged. Negligence differs from other areas of the law in that it is based on a person’s failure to take certain precautions that caused harm to another, rather than from a person’s direct action.
The plaintiff in this case argues OUE Skyspace LLC, as the builder of the slide, was negligent for creating a slide that did not adequately slow down the riders before landing.
Defense: Waiver of Liability
Extreme sport enthusiasts, such as people who bungee jump or skydive, sign what’s called a “waiver of liability.” A liability waiver is a form used to protect a person, business or entity from liability for dangerous activities by allowing the participant to sign a release before participating. Have you ever checked the back of your ski lift ticket? Even ski resorts include a liability waiver section on the back of their lift tickets in small print.
It is unclear whether the slide riders had to sign a liability waiver before riding the ride. However, even if there was a waiver, the owners of the slide are not protected from liability if the slide was not run safely. A finding of negligence would negate any waiver of liability signed prior to riding on the slide.
Defense: Assumption of the Risk
Assumption of the risk is a defense to a personal injury claim that bars or reduces the plaintiff’s right to recovery, even if the defendant is found to be negligent. The legal theory requires a demonstration that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk of injury as it’s inherent in the dangerous activity.
In order to prove the defense of assumption of risk, the defendant must show that:
- The plaintiff had actual knowledge of the risk involved in the conduct or activity; and,
- The plaintiff voluntarily accepted the risk, either expressly through agreement or implicitly by their words and conduct.
It is important to note that “actual knowledge” means the risks associated with the activity were obvious or apparent, and that the risk must not be forced upon the plaintiff.
Slides are found on playgrounds and were created for the enjoyment of young children. Slide injuries are relatively uncommon. Therefore, plaintiff would be found to have had no “actual knowledge” that she might break her ankle on the slide. Although she voluntarily rode on the slide, because she did not have actual knowledge of the danger associated with riding a slide, which society deems a relatively safe act, an assumption of the risk defense would not prevail.
Authored by Erin Chan-Adams, Legal Match Legal Writer and Attorney at Law