Illinois Appellate Court Affirms That Six Flags is Not Liable for the Death of a Worker Who Fell While Dismantling a Ride Structure


The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a decision dismissing Six Flags from a Cook County lawsuit. The case arose following the death of Thomas Lee of Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Lee was a heavy equipment mechanic for a Wadsworth, Wis., contractor hired by Six Flags to dismantle the structure of its Splashwater Falls ride.

In March 2008, Lee and his co-workers disconnected and removed a motor on the ride’s platform, leaving an opening 43 feet above the ground.

As Lee was connecting cables from a crane to equipment, he fell through the opening and died. His wife, Donna Lee, filed a lawsuit against Six Flags in Cook County in July 2010 alleging that the theme park owner knew of the dangerous conditions and failed to exercise reasonable care to protect workers who were working on dismantling the ride.

The lawsuit claimed that Six Flags held sufficient control over the work site and project to be held responsible for Lee’s death.

In March 2013, a Cook County Circuit Court judge granted the motion by Six Flags for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s counts of construction negligence and premises liability. On appeal, it was argued that a question of fact existed as to whether Six Flags had sufficient control over the job that Lee was working on to deny the summary judgment. The appellate court held that an employer can become liable for a contractor’s negligence only if it retains control over the operative details of the contractor’s work.

The court referred to Six Flags’ contract with Lee’s employer, which gave the employer sole responsibility and control over the means and procedures for dismantling the ride and requiring the employer to provide and pay for its own labor, materials and equipment; thus the appeals court found that Six Flags was not liable under that standard.

To buttress the appellate court’s decision, it referred to the contract again, which stated that the indemnity and insurance addendum provided that Six Flags had no right to control the details of the contractor’s work, or the means, methods or manner of the contractor’s performance of the work under the agreement.

As to the facts, it was shown that Six Flags retained no control over the work that was being done and that there was no evidence that Six Flags personnel had any contact with the job site on the date of the incident. A petition has been filed for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. According to the appellate court’s decision, “It’s a long-standing principle in the law that if you hire an independent contractor . . . you are not liable for any negligence of that independent contractor unless certain exceptions exist.”

Donna L. Lee v. Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc., No. 2014 IL App (1st) 130771.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site accidents, wrongful death claims and worker injuries for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Worth, Schaumburg, Sauk Village, Roselle, Riverside, Midlothian, Markham, Matteson, Calumet City, Buffalo Grove, Hillside, Harvey, Arlington Heights, Barrington and Skokie, Ill.

Related blog posts:

U.S. Court of Appeals Finds Duty to Indemnify in Construction Injury Case

$17 Million Settlement Reached in Death of Electrician Crushed by a Crane Hook

$704,000 Verdict for Railroad Mechanic Who Fell From Platform Fracturing Wrist