The Tragic Accident
On August 7, 2016, a young boy died while riding the Verruckt slide at Schlitterbahn, a water park in Kansas City. The injury occurred when the raft he was riding became airborne and crashed into metal rods supporting the slide’s overhead netting. Verruckt, German for “insane,” was marketed as the world’s tallest waterslide at its 2014 opening. Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader successfully pursued claims against multiple parties, including the companies that designed and constructed the slide, managed the water park, manufactured the raft, and the safety consultants who tested the slide. The incident resulted in five indictments and made headlines worldwide.
Experts were instrumental in quickly investigating the incident and helping to sift through theories of liability. Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader put together a team of nine specialists in the fields of polymer fiber science, biomechanical engineering, computer forensics, accident reconstruction, warnings, operations, restraint devices, ride design, and scientific visualization.
The primary claims were grouped into two general categories. Product liability claims were based on design defects, manufacturing defects and warning defects. The operations/management claims involved the defendants’ notice of dangerous conditions prior to the incident, failure to maintain and inspect the slide and rafts, and failure to properly train employees.
The case also involved a complex choice of law analysis. Some of the design and testing of the slide occurred in Texas, allowing Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader attorneys to argue that Texas law applied. At the time, Texas’ law regarding noneconomic damage caps in child wrongful death claims was more favorable than that of Kansas and significantly increased the value of recoverable damages.
Merging Legal And PR
One of the most pressing issues the attorneys handled was an intense interest in the case by media outlets around the world. They coordinated with news outlets from the outset, absorbing the pressure and allowing the clients to focus on what’s important. Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader is adept at merging legal and PR strategies, from media statements and press conferences to the implications of press coverage on potential jurors.
On January 11, the family settled with SVV 1 LLC, and KC Waterpark Management LLC, which collectively make up Schlitterbahn, for $14 million, and with raft manufacturer Zebec of North America Inc. for $500,000. The Court approved a second round of settlements on April 12 with the National Aquatic Safety Co., a consulting firm, for $232,125; and with Henry & Sons Construction Co., which built the ride, for $5 million. Altogether, the settlements totaled $19,732,125. Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader resolved the matter in its entirety in less than eight months. It is the largest known settlement in Kansas for the wrongful death of a child.