Is a theme park legally responsible if a visiting guest cannot read a warning sign because the signs are only in English?
That is the question at the heart of a lawsuit this month targeting Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, according to WFOR-TV.
A Guatemalan family is suing the theme park after a 38-year-old father died from a heart attack two years ago.
KTLA-TV identified the man as Jose Calderon Arana and reported that he had prior heart problems.
Arana, who didn’t speak English, suffered the fatal heart attack after riding on “Skull Island: Reign of Kong.”
The lawsuit claims that, after getting off the ride, Arana felt discomfort in his stomach and the family passed it off as an upset stomach, according to KTLA. He sat on the bench while his wife and son went on another ride.
When the wife and son returned, they had found that Arana had collapsed, KTLA reported. He was rushed to a hospital where he eventually died.
The wrongful death suit accuses Universal of being negligent for not displaying warning signs in Spanish.
“This isn’t a crazy request or expectation. It’s actually quite basic in this day and age,” the family’s personal injury attorney Lou Pendas said, according to KTLA. “You are asking for international travelers. This is a mecca for tourism. This is a very basic thing that should be thought of for the safety of patrons.”
“Universal was aware of the great number of tourists on their premises who do not speak English,” the lawsuit states, according to KTLA.
According to KTLA, a warning sign at the entrance of the “Kong” ride read “Warning! This ride is an expedition through the rough terrain of King Kong’s natural habitat. The movement of the truck is dynamic with sudden accelerations, dramatic tilting and jarring actions.”
While the warning was only in English, it did have accompanying images illustrating the various potential dangers, KTLA reported.
The ride recreates a truck expedition traveling through various habitats from the recent King Kong movies and utilizes both animatronics and 3D imagery.
While I’m no legal scholar, this case definitely seems to be a thorny one.
On the one hand, this isn’t some Michael Avenatti-esque frivolity. A father and husband died, which is truly tragic.
But on the other hand, where does responsibility end for a theme park? Wouldn’t this type of lawsuit open the door for a situation where, say, a Yemeni family could sue a theme park for not having warnings in Yemeni Arabic? At the very least, it’s a slippery slope.
And to be clear, theme parks should always be held responsible when their mistakes lead to deaths or injuries.
But in this case, is it truly a mistake for not having warnings that are inclusive enough? That’s a decision for the courts to make.
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