Jury Sides With Amusement Park In Basketball Lawsuit

SNOW HILL – It took two days last week, but a Worcester County Circuit Court jury returned a verdict in favor of a Boardwalk amusement park sued by a Severn, Md. couple for over $1 million for an alleged errant basketball, called by the victim’s husband during his pre-trial deposition a “one in a million” shot.

Last year, a couple sued Jolly Roger Rides, Inc., which operates the amusement park on the Ocean City Pier, seeking over $1 million combined for compensatory and punitive damages, negligence and loss of consortium after the woman, Christine Fry, was allegedly struck on the head by a shot that caromed off the company’s Long Range Basketball Shot game in August 2007. The suit alleged the accident caused Fry serious injuries to her head and neck and aggravated a pre-existing spinal cord condition, ultimately requiring her to have debilitating surgery.

What turned out to be a jury trial finally came to Worcester County Circuit Court last week in a case that spanned over two days. After listening to hours of testimony, during which several motions to dismiss entered by the defense were denied, the jury was handed the case shortly after 4 p.m. last Tuesday afternoon. The jury returned the next day with a verdict in favor of the defendant, Jolly Roger Rides, Inc.

According to the complaint, on Aug. 4, 2007, the victim was walking on the pier with her husband and two children when a basketball used in the Long Range Basketball Shot game allegedly deflected off the game apparatus and struck Christine Fry on top of the head as she walked with her back to the game. According to the complaint, the “game is not equipped with any safety devices or other means of protecting non-participants, nor were any warning signs posted.”

Soon after allegedly being struck by the errant basketball, Fry began experiencing severe head and neck pain along with the loss of motion, numbness in her extremities and other problems, which have been ongoing since she was struck by the ball, according to the complaint. The victim sought medical treatment and was diagnosed with a severe cervical spine injury that also aggravated a pre-existing spinal cord condition.

“Since the date of the injury, Fry’s symptoms have become worse,” the complaint reads. “She tried non-surgical treatment, but it was unsuccessful. She is now forced to undergo surgery to repair the damage done by the blow to the head.”

According to court records, Fry did have surgery in March 2008 to repair the alleged damage. The surgery “required the placement of a cadaver bone in the victim’s neck to essentially create a new neck for Ms. Fry,” the complaint reads. The initial complaint was seeking a judgment of $450,000 for the alleged negligence count and an additional $25,000 for loss of consortium. However, an amended complaint filed later upped the ante to $650,000 for negligence, $200,000 in punitive damages, $100,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 for lack of consortium.

The defendants, through their attorney, filed a motion for summary judgment essentially claiming no responsibility for the incident based on the track record of the park and that particular game. In the motion to dismiss, the defendants asserted, based on gross receipts, over 300,000 people have played the game since it went into operation in 2003. Since then, countless thousands of other people have walked by the game without any similar incidents.

“The defendant has, or had, no reason to believe that the Long Range Basketball Shot game presented, or presents, an unreasonable risk of harm to anyone,” the motion reads.