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The Reiff Law Firm Attorneys Win $995,200 Award in SeaWorld Injury Case

In recent years, popular marine attraction SeaWorld has been in and out of the news for allegations of animal mistreatment and substandard trainer safety protocols.  But in this case, the victim — and victor — was a park patron.  On Wednesday, attorneys Raymond Bily and Robert Szostak secured a $995,200 award for client Onix I. Agosto, Jr. after his ankle was seriously injured on a water slide at SeaWorld’s Sesame Place.

SeaWorld Visitor Onix Agosto Suffers Broken Ankle on Sesame Place Water Slide

“The verdict of Onix I. Agosto, Jr.,” said The Reiff Law Firm attorney Robert Szostak on Wednesday evening, “tells SeaWorld to change its policy in favor of safety for all of its guests riding water slides.” The verdict was a victory long in the making: Three years ago, Onix Agosto was doing what millions of Americans do: celebrating a sunny, leisurely Memorial Day with a fun-filled afternoon outing.

At least, that’s what it should have been.  Agosto never could have predicted the day would end in snapped bone, excruciating agony, and a costly set of medical bills. On May 30, 2011, Agosto entered the Bert & Ernie’s Slip and Slide water park ride at SeaWorld’s Sesame Place.  He was wearing rubber water shoes, as guests at water parks and public pools frequently do.

Unfortunately for Agosto, his very reasonable choice of attire turned out to be a terrible mistake — a mistake SeaWorld could and should have prevented.  Despite admitting to knowing the dangers posed by these shoes when worn on water slides, park management failed to post any warning notices whatsoever to ensure visitor safety. Because of SeaWorld’s negligence, Agosto was left to discover the danger for himself.

When Agosto hit the first bend on the slide, the rubber grips around his left foot applied a sudden brake force against the slippery walls of the ride.  This force was powerful enough to immediately stop the foot’s motion, causing his ankle to snap as the rest of his body, which had no such attire, continued to travel down the slide.

This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a minor injury.  A paramedic who arrived on the scene described the wound as the worst ankle injury she’d seen in her career.

“SeaWorld’s Director of Safety… Admitted that Rubber Shoes Grip the Slide.”

SeaWorld officials knew precisely this sort of devastating injury could happen — yet there wasn’t so much as a warning sign to be found on the premises.  How expensive or time-consuming could it have possibly been to install a few pieces plastic notifying park guests of potential physical dangers?

Multiple breakdowns in the basic safety chain led to Agosto’s terrible injuries.

“SeaWorld’s Director of Safety at Sesame Place,” stated attorney Raymond Bily, “admitted that rubber shoes grip the slide. The dispatcher on that unfortunate day in Mr. Agosto’s life,” he added, “admitted that she failed to follow dispatch procedure and that SeaWorld failed to enforce it.”

Even SeaWorld’s expert — an individual traditionally inclined to side in favor of defendants — pointed out the flaws were with the park, and not Agosto.

“The jury heard from SeaWorld’s expert,” said Bily, “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.”

Not only is the possibility of injury known and understood by SeaWorld staff members, the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Training Manual formally acknowledges that rubber shoes and water slides should never be permitted to mix.

Testimony from experts and SeaWorld personnel alike was supported further by eye-witness reports, with many stating they had personally observed safety violations.

A Philadelphia jury of twelve ruled that SeaWorld’s negligence had caused Agosto’s injuries, and the plaintiff was awarded damages of $995,200.

If you or someone you love was hurt in a water park or amusement park accident, you could have a strong personal injury claim.  To schedule your free and private legal consultation with the experienced attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm, call our law offices at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online today.

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