Updated: 11:58 a.m. Monday, March 21, 2011 | Posted: 11:15 a.m. Monday, March 21, 2011

Kings Island settles lawsuit over Son of Beast accident

By Denise G. Callahan

Staff Writer

LEBANON — Kings Island settled today with a man suing the amusement park for injuries he received during a 2006 accident on the Son of Beast.

The two sides settled for an undisclosed amount as jury selection was beginning in the civil lawsuit filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Jonathan Yanik of Ashland, Ky., is the last person involved in many lawsuits launched against Kings Island’s owner, amusement park giant Cedar Fair, over an accident on the wooden roller coaster that sent 27 people to the hospital in June 2006.

Yanik’s attorney could not be readily reached for comment, but Colleen Hegge said last week talks with Kings Island had continued and were improving.

A faulty support on the roller coaster was blamed for the jolting ride, which caused Kings Island officials to close the ride for a short amount of time. Son of Beast was closed again in 2009 following another complaint and has not been opened since.

Hegge, who has represented a half-dozen Son of Beast riders in court, said

Yanik suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery following the ride. He has spent $22,521 in medical bills to date, according to court documents and has suffered $22,000 in lost wages.

The lawsuit asked for $500,000 in compensatory damages and more than $350,000 in punitive damages. All the other lawsuits but one were settled prior to trial. Jennifer Wright of Defiance took her case to a jury in October 2009 and was awarded $76,364 in compensatory damages and an undisclosed amount in punitive damages.

Wright suffered hip and lower back injuries after the car in which she was riding hit a span of track that had separated, where timbers splintered on the giant wooden roller coaster.

Kings Island offered to settle on punitive damages after the verdict was reached and before jurors could hear a taped deposition by a forensic engineer who inspected the ride and said Kings Island’s owners were “negligent” and “put passengers at risk.”

In a video interview, Rick Schmizze, who investigated the 2006 accident for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said owners of the amusement park have known since 2000 there were problems with the ride.

“They would fix them in a Band-Aid style and then wait and see what happened,” he testified. “They never really stopped and said ‘we’ve got a problem with this ride as a whole.’ “

Had a jury heard the Yanik case, they would have heard Schmizze’s testimony.

Contact this reporter at (513) 696-4525 or dcallahan@coxohio.com.



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