The people injured on the Fire Ball ride that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair in July may not be able to hold the manufacturer of the ride liable because of a “tort reform” law Ohio legislators passed in 2005.
A lawyer representing a woman who legs were shattered in the ride failure told The Columbus Dispatch that the “tort reform” law will “make the fight for justice much more difficult to achieve” because it set caps on jury awards for businesses and imposed a 10-year “statute of repose” limit on a manufacturer’s liability for product defects.
The Fire Ball ride that malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair, killing 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell and severely injuring seven others, was made by Dutch manufacturer KMG nearly 20 years ago.
Under the law, “No cause of action based on a product-liability claim shall accrue against the manufacturer or supplier of a product later than 10 years from the date that the product is delivered to its first purchaser or lessee.”
A lawyer representing the estate of Tyler Jarrell, the teen who was killed when the ride slung him into the air, told The Columbus Dispatch that the law was a “terrible” one. “A lot of products out there are supposed to last longer than 10 years. But if they turn out to be defective after that, the manufacturer can’t be sued or held liable.”
According to The Columbus Dispatch, an attorney for another one of the victims “said that placing an arbitrary deadline on a manufacturer’s responsibility for a product should trouble consumers. By that logic, the owner of a car that is more than 10 years old would be responsible if the vehicle’s air bags fail to deploy in a crash.”
KMG sent officials to Ohio immediately after the deadly accident to inspect the ride. They determined that excessive corrosion on a metal support beam caused it to break apart while the ride was swinging.
Although KMG may be shielded from liability under the Ohio law, the victims will still have legal recourse in the owner and operator of the ride. The Fire Ball that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair is owned by Amusements of America.
The Ohio Association for Justice hopes that the deadly State Fair accident will lead to a change in the law, either by repealing the statute of repose or extending it well beyond its 10-year cutoff. No Ohio legislators have yet agreed to sponsor a repeal or change.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, who sponsored the 2005 “tort reform” legislation as a member of the state Senate, indicated that it could be time to take another look at the law.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, “…It has been more than 10 years since the law was passed,” Rep. Stivers wrote in a statement, “and it is up to the Ohio legislature to examine this case and consider if any reforms to the system are necessary.”