The New Jersey Supreme Court has reinstated a personal injury claim against Sahara Sam’s Oasis, the popular Berlin water park. Justices unanimously held that a jury could determine whether the owners of the park were grossly negligent for failing to provide adequate warnings.
According to court filings, Roy Steinberg, the plaintiff in the personal injury claim, took his grandchildren to the park in April, 2010. He attempted to surf, using a device called a “flow board,” similar to a surf board. He fell, striking his head on the bottom of the pool, and was then thrown into the wall by a wave. Steinberg fractured his spine, which led to some paralysis in his legs.
Steinberg sued the park, alleging that Sahara Sam employees failed to correctly instruct him in the use of the flow board, and that the owners of the park failed to post appropriate warnings about the risks involved. According to Steinberg, the manufacturers of the flow board recommend that first-time users assume a prone position, rather than a standing position, until they get a sense of balance. Steinberg fell from a standing position. In addition, his attorneys argue that the manufacturer advised purchasers of the product, starting in 2008, to warn potential users of the risks, telling them that “surfing is an extreme sport and a high-risk recreational activity,” and warning them “you will fall.” Sahara Sam’s had warnings in place, but they did not include the above language.
At the initial trial, the court found that the warnings employed by Sahara Sam’s, combined with the waiver of liability form, which Steinberg signed, prevented Steinberg from pursuing a claim based on gross negligence. The New Jersey appellate court agreed, but the Supreme Court reversed, saying that it was within the prerogative of the jury to determine if Sahara Sam’s had failed to exercise “the slightest degree of care,” the current standard in New Jersey for gross negligence.
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