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On August 29, 2012, Dominque Thomas and her two children visited the Big Air inflatable amusement center on Atlantic Boulevard for what they expected would be an afternoon of family fun.  Instead, as Dominque rode to the bottom of Big Air’s feature slide, the Ninjasaur, her left foot was caught in an uncovered opening, and she suffered a complex ankle fracture requiring surgery.

Big Air Ninjasaur

Big Air Ninjasaur

What Dominque discovered was that just because a place is open to the public for business does not mean that it’s safe.  It turned out there was only one employee responsible for attending the amusements at Big Air that day, which was not enough to monitor rides such as the Ninjasaur which requires at least two monitors.  According the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, inflatable amusement rides resulted in 31,000 emergency room visits between 2003 and 2007.  Many of these incidents result in personal injury lawsuits against amusement operators for improper supervision and maintenance of rides.

Dominque contacted Terrell Hogan personal injury attorney Chris Shakib, who filed a lawsuit against Big Air in Jacksonville. After filing the lawsuit, Shakib discovered three other pending lawsuits for injuries against Big Air for incidents that took place on August 27, 2011, December 23, 2011, and July 3, 2012.  Each of these lawsuits was filed by someone who suffered a left leg injury while riding the Ninjasaur slide.

For Shakib, the other incidents show Big Air knew the Ninjasaur slide was dangerous, but the company did nothing about it.  “It was like a car rental company repeatedly renting out a car it knows has bad brakes, without fixing the brakes or warning customers,” said Shakib. “As a Jacksonville personal injury attorney, we see too often accidents happen because a company does not put safety first.”

Ken Amaro interviews Chris Shakib and Dominque Thomas

Ken Amaro interviews Chris Shakib and Dominque Thomas

After discovering the other lawsuits, Shakib filed a motion with the Court seeking to amend Dominque’s complaint to include a claim for punitive damages. Punitive damages are money damages awarded in addition to compensatory damages when a defendant’s conduct goes beyond negligence. Under Florida law, punitive damages are only permitted when a defendant’s conduct was so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life and safety of others.

The case is expected to go to trial in 2014.

First Coast News: Inflatable amusement ride center of several lawsuits

CPSC Amusement Ride Warning