A personal injury lawsuit against popular Berlin water park Sahara Sam’s Oasis has been reinstated by the New Jersey Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the state’s top court overturned lower court rulings that concluded that the park had properly warned Roy Steinberg, of Voorhees, of the potential risks involved with one of its attractions.
According to court records, Steinberg took his two children to the Camden County amusement park in April, 2010. While there, he decided to try to surf, using a “flow board,” similar to a surf board. Shortly after mounting the flow board—he was standing on it—he fell, striking the top of his head on the bottom of the pool. He was then thrown against a wall by a wave. As a consequence, he sustained a fractured spine, which led to some paralysis in his legs.
Steinberg filed suit against Sahara Sam’s, contending that the park’s employees failed to properly instruct him how to use the flow board. He also alleged that Sahara Sam’s neglected to post adequate warnings about the potential for serious injury. His attorney argued that the flow board’s manufacturer advised customers in 2008 to advise potential users that surfing was “an extreme sport and high-risk recreational activity.” The product manufacturer also recommended that parks using the device tell potential users “you will fall.” Steinberg says that park employees knew that the recommended position for first-time users (as he was) was prone, not standing, but failed to tell him that.
At trial, the court found that the warnings Sahara Sam’s had in place, combined with the written waiver of liability signed by Steinberg, prevented Steinberg from proceeding on a claim of gross negligence. The appellate court agreed, but the Supreme Court, holding that a jury could find that Sahara Sam’s failed to exercise “the slightest degree of care,” the standard for gross negligence.
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