Daniel Kagan: More regulations will not end amusement ride danger

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Daniel Kagan of the Berman & Simmons law firm: “It is too soon to know whether more or different regulations would have prevented needless harm or injury. ”

In the wake of this weekend’s two incidents causing injuries on amusement park rides in Waterville, Maine, many are calling on the state legislature to act quickly to enact new regulations. Daniel Kagan, a lawyer with the Maine law firm Berman & Simmons, and a legal expert on attraction and ride safety, says regulations are only part of the solution.

“The safety provided by regulation alone is somewhat of an illusion,” Kagan said. “Regulations might make people feel safer on an amusement ride or public event, but if the event organizer or operator chooses not to put safety first, a regulation won’t matter.”

Kagan noted that he is not against regulations, and said they are important for setting barest minimum safety standards. But regulations alone are not a reliable approach for protecting the public, he said. Often, in cases of injury on attractions such as carnival rides, what is missing is attention to safety and details by owners and operators.

“Rather than focusing on regulations, only a thorough investigation can provide a true understanding of how the system failed,“ Kagan said. “Regulations are usually adopted after a tragedy has already occurred, often in response to public outcry. While that might increase awareness of danger, it does not help the victims who were harmed in the first place.”

Longstanding Maine law supports Kagan’s position. In Maine, even if it can be proven that an attraction organizer or operator violated an important regulation, that does not automatically mean they are responsible for the harm caused. Violating an applicable regulation can be evidence of fault, but by itself does not prove fault, Kagan said. This is one reason why it’s important to understand all aspects of an incident, and not just whether a regulation was violated, he said.

Kagan represents the family of Wallace Fenlason, who was killed during the 2013 Bangor Fourth of July parade. He and a law partner at Berman & Simmons, Jodi Nofsinger, represent the family of Cassidy Charette, who was killed in the hayride crash last October at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls.

Kagan is available to discuss the relevant laws of Maine, the questions that must be answered in cases of amusement park ride injuries, and the legal process. He can be reached at dkagan@bermansimmons.wpengine.com, or at 207-784-3576.