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Amusement park accident - Plaintiff falls from rented wheelchair at amusement park - Broken ankle - Surgery required - Wheelchair footrest allegedly defective.

Kennebec County, Maine

The plaintiff, her son and a family friend were visiting the defendant amusement park where the plaintiff rented a wheelchair in order to navigate the park more easily, as she suffers from multiple sclerosis. The plaintiff’s son was pushing the plaintiff in the wheelchair and they proceeded down a paved ramp. At the bottom of the ramp where the pavement becomes level, according to the plaintiff’s claims, the foot rest of the wheelchair struck the ground causing the chair to pitch forward, ejecting the plaintiff onto the pavement. The plaintiff contended that the wheelchair foot rest was defective and caused the accident.

The plaintiff experienced a broken ankle as a result of her fall, and her injuries required surgery, including insertion of a plate and screws to repair the break. She remained in the hospital for approximately one week and also underwent one week of rehabilitation. The plaintiff had temporary mobility issues related to the broken ankle, but she healed well and recovered to her previous state of mobility as limited due to her multiple sclerosis. The plaintiff presented her orthopedic surgeon who testified as to her injuries and the treatment required to return her to her previous level of function.

Among several witnesses who testified, there was conflicting p 7 3 testimony as to the events around the accident. The plaintiff claimed that the footrest of the wheelchair was loose and tilted down as the wheelchair came to the bottom of the ramp, thus striking the ground and forcing the wheelchair to stop suddenly and causing her to fall forward out of the chair. The plaintiff’s son testified that, when he felt something "fetch" into the ground at the bottom of the ramp, he wasn’t sure if it was the plaintiff’s foot or the footrest. He also maintained that he never let go of the wheelchair’s handles, but that he pulled back on the handles when the chair came to the bottom of the ramp.

The defense, however, contended that the plaintiff’s son was pushing the wheelchair in a manner that exceeded reasonable speed and was reckless. The defense asserted that as the plaintiff’s son pushed the chair down the ramp, he realized it was going too fast and pulled the handles back sharply in an attempt to slow down, and that the combination of speed and his arresting the forward movement of the wheelchair caused the plaintiff to pitch forward out of the chair and become injured. Additionally, the defense presented a witness to the accident. The defense witness was the former certified nurse assistant to the plaintiff who had accompanied the family on the trip to the amusement park as a friend, not in a professional capacity, that day. The witness testified that the plaintiff’s son was pushing the plaintiff’s wheelchair too fast around the park on the day of the accident.

When asked why she didn’t tell him to slow down, the witness responded that she had told him, but that he frequently did not listen to her.

The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant and returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. This case is currently on appeal.

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