State Fair Accident Sheds Light On Potentially Troubling Government Immunity

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What exactly is a wrongful death claim?”


People may be vaguely aware of the notion of immunity, that certain people are legally protected from being sued for their actions. Often this immunity surfaces in cases involving police officers who are generally shielded from personal liability as a result of performing their government sanctioned job. Though the liability does not extend to cover every situation, it is rather broad and can limit or totally eliminate the money that injured individuals can collect from an otherwise responsible party.


Fair-ride-Charlotte-Injury-Lawyer-Lake-Norman-Car-Accident-Attorney-300x198Many people may not know that immunity has been extended to a wide array of government workers, including state safety inspectors. A recent personal injury case in Ohio brought this reality to light when family members of individuals injured and killed in a recent carnival accident attempted to sue the individuals who had inspected the ride, naming them personally liable for the harm that was done. The lawsuits against the individuals were tossed out, as the government-employed inspectors enjoy immunity from suit, something that raises concerns about whether there is proper accountability when government agents act improperly.


In the Ohio case, the circumstances would normally appear to be perfect ones for a negligence lawsuit. Last summer, at the Ohio State Fair, a rusted steel arm snapped off a carnival ride, throwing passengers to the ground. The accident left four people with severe and debilitating injuries. Tragically, it also left one teenager dead. To the horror of many family members, only hours before the accident, state safety inspectors had inspected that very carnival ride, supposedly conducting a lengthy review. Despite the allegedly vigorous review, the inspectors managed to miss cracks and rust that could have saved a life.


Though this would appear to present a good case for negligence claims against the inspectors, lawsuits have instead focused on the owners of the ride or the manufacturers of key pieces of the equipment. Though these individuals and groups may also share responsibility for what happened, the lawsuits skip over a seemingly obvious source of responsibility and legal liability. To overcome the grant of immunity, personal injury attorneys would need to show that the inspectors were behaving maliciously, meaning that they purposely ignored indications of harm or intended to do harm to others. This is a high bar and often impossible to clear in such cases.


Shielding a group of people from legal liability is not only problematic for the plaintiffs, who are unable to collect compensation from those who may have done something wrong, but it is potentially harmful to society. By shielding a group of otherwise responsible individuals from legal liability, it can incentivize further misbehavior. Immunity, literally speaking, places some groups of people above the law. If state safety inspectors do not have to answer in court for the things they may have done wrong, where is the accountability? What is the means of ensuring they do their jobs properly?


Among victims in the recent Ohio case, some say they intend to push for change. The plaintiffs agree that if immunity will continue to be granted to the safety inspectors, new standards need to be created for how they do their jobs. Rather than allowing the inspectors wide latitude to decide how best to perform their work, the goal is to create checklists to guarantee that certain issues are addressed every time by every inspector. Though governmental grants of immunity will still create distortions in terms of accountability, the hope is that creating more standardized procedures will help ensure greater safety.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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