A woman's brain injury after a headfirst fall from a ride at Dollywood was caused by a mix of sleet and rain that made the ride "dangerously slick" and a lack of adequate safety measures, according to a lawsuit against the Tennessee theme park's operators.
Tedi A. Brown suffered permanent impairments and disabilities after the Florida woman plunged from the Waltzing Swinger ride while on vacation with her husband and five of their children in late December 2013, the suit said.
Defendants are Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. and Dolly Parton Productions Inc. Herschend operates and manages the theme park at Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the suit said. Brown and her husband filed the lawsuit recently in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn.
"Out of respect for the process and as a matter of practice, Dollywood does not comment on pending litigation," Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said in a statement Wednesday (Dec. 31). "We look forward to this issue being resolved and anticipate commenting at that time."
The Brown family had not been on the ride before. Brown and her husband, Derryl, asked a Dollywood employee if the Waltzing Swinger was safe to ride in the wintry conditions, the suit said. The family was told not to worry, it said.
The Waltzing Swinger is a revolving ride with individual seats ascending 25 feet into the air and tilting outward. The swinging chairs lacked locking mechanisms to restrain riders, and anyone could lift the lap bar and become unrestrained, the suit said.
When the ride is completed, the chairs come to a stop about 10 feet above the ground, it said.
Once the Brown family's ride had stopped, Tedi Brown thought the ride was over and lifted her lap bar to exit her seat, it said. She quickly realized the seats were too high to exit safely, but lost her grip on the lap bar due to the slick conditions, the suit said.
She slid from her seat and fell headfirst onto the pavement. She also suffered spine and neck injuries, torn ligaments and a broken jaw, it said.
"Defendants failed to exercise due care and breached the duty owed these plaintiffs by failing to close the Waltzing Swinger ... when the weather was a wintry mix of rain and sleet, which rendered the seats and lap bars of that ride dangerously slick," the suit said.
The park also failed to warn the family not to raise the non-locking safety bar until the ride was safely on the ground, it said.
The Browns are seeking $475,000 in damages, along with court and discretionary costs. The amount of damages sought by the plaintiffs could change depending on follow-up medical reviews on Tedi Brown's condition, her attorney, Darren Berg, said Wednesday.