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Reiff Law Firm Attorneys Secure $995,200 Award for Injured SeaWorld Water Slide Patron

Once widely beloved, the SeaWorld franchise has received plenty of negative scrutiny in recent years. The park’s treatment of animals and trainers alike has repeatedly come under fire, but on this occasion, it wasn’t a staff member or sea creature who fell victim to negligence.  This June, attorneys Robert Szostak and Raymond Bily of the Pennsylvania personal injury firm of The Reiff Law Firm obtained a $995,200 award for SeaWorld patron Onix I. Agosto Jr. after the victim sustained a devastating ankle injury in a Sesame Place water slide accident.

SeaWorld’s Negligent Safety Procedures Lead to Broken Ankle on Sesame Place Water Slide

On Memorial Day of 2011, Mr. Agosto and his family were visiting the popular park to enjoy a fun day in the surf and sun.  But unfortunately, because of SeaWorld’s negligent safety practices, Mr. Agosto would not return home in his car with his wife and children.  Instead, he would be hospitalized with injuries a responding paramedic described as some of the worst she had witnessed in the course of her medical career.

During this particular visit to Sesame Place, Mr. Agosto happened to be wearing a pair of water shoes with rubber grips — a perfectly understandable choice of footwear, given the glass and other debris which can sometimes be found on the bottoms of public pools and swimming areas.  He would have had absolutely no reason to suspect the shoes would pose a threat once he boarded a water slide ride.

Indeed, he had no way of knowing the shoes could lead to injury, because SeaWorld negligently failed to post any warnings notifying patrons of this hidden hazard.  A slide staffer could have warned Mr. Agosto and instructed him to remove his shoes, but this basic precaution was also disregarded by the park.

Once Mr. Agosto hit the first curve on the Bert & Ernie’s Slip and Slide, the grips on his shoes — which are specifically designed to help prevent falls on slippery surfaces —  snagged on the walls of the ride.  However, his velocity continued to pull him downward, forcing his ankle to bend and finally break.

So why didn’t SeaWorld inform its visitors of this lurking danger?  Did park officials simply not realize the potential for injury?

Park Officials Knew the Dangers, Yet Failed to Warn Park Patrons

Quite the contrary.

This dangerous interaction is actually common knowledge within the industry.  The American Red Cross Lifeguarding Training Manual specifically states that aqua shoes should never be permitted on water slides, because otherwise, an injury precisely like Mr. Agosto’s can easily occur. Numerous park witnesses and expert testimonials both asserted that SeaWorld routinely operated in flagrant violation of basic safety rules in both the Red Cross manual and its own manual.

It is perhaps even more telling that one particular expert with a history of siding with amusement park defendants in all but one case also spoke out against SeaWorld.  To quote attorney Raymond Bily, “The jury heard from SeaWorld’s expert, who with the exception of one case in his entire career, always defends the amusement park industry.  He actually said while testifying for SeaWorld that rubber shoes can and do cause injuries on these types of slides.”

The evidence that SeaWorld was negligent in withholding critical safety information from its visitors continued to mount even higher.  To quote another statement from Mr. Bily, “SeaWorld’s Director of Safety at Sesame Place admitted that rubber shoes grip the slide. The dispatcher on that unfortunate day in Mr. Agosto’s life admitted that she failed to follow dispatch procedure and that SeaWorld failed to enforce it.”

In this case, every link in the safety chain was broken at the expense of Mr. Agosto and his family. There were numerous opportunities to prevent disaster, yet none were seized.  Most disturbingly, the facts suggest that if Mr. Agosto hadn’t been the unlucky victim, it would have been somebody else.  It took a horrifying injury and subsequent legal battle to bring this issue to light.

“The verdict of Onix I. Agosto, Jr. tells SeaWorld to change its policy in favor of safety for all of its guests riding water slides,” stated attorney Robert Szostak.

Mr. Bily added, “Hopefully, SeaWorld will opt to preclude rubber water shoes on its slides at all of its parks in keeping with so many parks around the Commonwealth which do not allow rubber water shoes on water slides.  Because Sesame Place holds itself out as a family entertainment attraction to both children and adults alike, I would expect that SeaWorld will change its rules on footwear to conform with the mainstream of safety in the parks throughout our state.”

While it is highly unfortunate that Mr. Agosto had to undergo such an ordeal, we are pleased we could obtain the $995,200 award as compensation.  Hopefully, SeaWorld will become a safer park in the future.

If you or someone you love was hurt in an amusement park accident, the experienced attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can help you seek justice.  To schedule your free and private consultation, call our law offices at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online today.

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