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Houston Rodeo Rollercoaster Death Lawsuit

ABC 13 reports that a state lawmaker is promising to introduce tough new regulation for carnival operators as Houston Accident Attorney Joe Stephens calls for a major investigation into the rollercoaster death last Sunday of Houston father Brian Greenhouse.

As we reported on our Houston Injury Lawyer Blog, Stephens wrote a formal complaint letter to the Texas Department of Insurance, which is charged with regulating carnival rides, calling it a “statistical certainty” that someone would die after ride operators failed to take the necessary precautions in the wake of similar safety complaints. Stephens himself assisted a woman in filing a complaint with the state two years ago when the lap bar in the front car of the coaster reportedly failed, leaving her and her 4-year-old daughter at risk of falling from the ride. The victim in Sunday’s accident was also riding in the first car.

The letter calls previous inspections of the ride “woefully inadequate,” statements by the ride company that there had not been previous safety complaints “apparently untrue” and injury reports filed with the state “misleading,” according to the report by ABC13’s Jessica Willey.

“The time has come to conduct a major investigation, demand incident reports of all complaints and accidents and ferret out what they actually knew prior to the Greenhouse death,” Stephens said. “I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. Bottom line here, this is just a Good Ol’ Boy network.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he will push for a review of carnival ride regulations in the state. “I believe that should be looked at,” he said.

Coleman said he will introduce a bill that will investigate and modify current regulations as needed.

If you have been involved in an accident in the Houston area, contact The Stephens Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Houston Injury Attorney Joe Stephens has nearly three decades of experience representing personal injury and wrongful death cases. A Personal Injury Trial Law Specialist through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1993, Attorney Stephens has won multiple verdicts over $1 million and is a Million Dollar Advocates Member.

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Allegations continue to mount that the owners and operators of the Hi-Miler roller coaster involved in a fatal Texas amusement park accident had information that the ride’s restraints were defective and that the coaster was a danger to rodeo guests.

Houston Personal Injury Attorney Joe Stephens sent a formal complaint letter to the Texas Department of Insurance, notifying the state that similar allegations were made against the same ride two years ago. It was then that he recommended a woman file a complaint after she and her 4-year-old daughter were terrified when the restraint bar reportedly failed on the front car of the coaster.

A patron was killed Sunday when he plummeted 30 feet from the front car of the same coaster. The Texas Department of Insurance is charged with regulating carnival rides. As we reported here on Friday, a Houston wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Ray Cammack Shows and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

“Though you asked the Carnival operators to inspect and fix it, they obviously did not heed your instructions, ” Stephens wrote. “The entire ride should have been shut down until they redesigned the underlying problem of the latching bar. Unless it was corrected, it was a statistical certainty that someone would be killed.”

Stephens’ letter notes reports of a second complaint about the ride just four days before Greenhouse’s death.

“The ride operators therefore knew that this was a reoccurring problem, yet failed to correct it, or shut the ride down,” Stephens wrote. “The ride operator’s decision to continue operations of the Hi-Miler dem0nstrates an astonishing level of carelessness toward the safety of the rodeo patrons and their little children who ride the rides.”

Stephens also notes ride operators appeared on television, where they denied previous complaints about the ride. And that they did not accurately reflect the fact that someone had died when they made their official report with the state.

In 2002, Attorney Stephens represented another patron who was injured at a Ray Cammack Show, which Stephens said also went unreported and that RCS shows lead the entire state in occupant injuries.  An investigation by the Houston Press determined that Ray Cammack Show venues had reported 47 injuries in Texas, more than any other mobile operator. The number of injuries even exceeded those at some permanent attractions.

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Ray Cammack Shows and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo carnival may have been permitted to return to business as usual in the wake of this week’s deadly rollercoaster accident.

Except Houston Injury Lawyer Joe Stephens encouraged a client to file a complaint two years ago about the exact same coaster — very possibly the exact same car — after a near-fatal accident involving her and her daughter. While the investigation continues, we hope it does not turn out that this man’s life could have been saved had state inspectors and ride operators taken the complaint more seriously.

Brian Greenhouse, 47, plummeted 30 feet to his death while riding in the first car of the Hi-Miler roller coaster. Houston Accident Attorney Joe Stephens assisted a client in filing a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance in 2009 after the restrain system failed while she was riding with her daughter in the first car of the same rollercoaster.

-The Houston Chronicle reports the ride operator reported the man was “limp in the air” as he fell; mathematics and the laws of physics say it takes less than 1.5 seconds for a person to fall 30 feet.

-Following the complaint in 2009, the ride operator gave the car a cursory inspection before allowing the ride to continue operating, according to an ABC13 report. The complaint to the Texas Department of Insurance reportedly did nothing but generate another inspection by the ride company.

ABC 13 News reported the ride company denied any previous history of complaints regarding the restraints, despite the documented history with the state.

-And even this week’s paperwork filed by the company with the state gives no indication that anyone died, mentioning only the possibility of preexisting or internal injuries.

Lawyers for the Greenhouse family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo carnival and Ray Cammack Shows on behalf of the victim’s 6-year-old son and his parents. The lawsuit claims the companies were negligent in events that led to Greenhouse’s death. The incident was a tragic end to the three-week Houston rodeo; Ray Cammack Shows has run the carnival for 12 years.

The ride was last inspected in October. The incident is now being investigated by Houston homicide detectives. Anyone with information is asked to call HPD at 713-308-3600.

ABC news reported Joe Stephens involvement with a case against Ray Cammack Shows with regard to a wrongful death of a patron who was thrown from a Roller Coaster at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Coaster victims family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Rodeo because several people warned the Rodeo about the Roller Coaster before the victim was thrown. In 2009, Attorney Joe Stephens had filed a formal complaint with Safety Authorities about another little girl and her mom who had barely survived the ride. Stephens had encouraged the other family to report their near death mishap because of the reputation that Ray Cammack Shows and the carnival industry has for their unsafe rides, and for their cover-ups of other injuries and deaths. Jessica Willey with ABC interviewed Mr. Stephens in 2011 about his expertise in standing up to the carnival industry, and his involvement in the the case about the death of Brain Greenhouse. Stephens has sued Ray Cammack Shows, and has hired undercover investigators in years past to document their unsafe practices in connection with other injuries, and is a well known adversary by the carnival industry. You can hire him to help you if you or a loved one is injured or killed by their negligence. Call 281-623-1701

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March 25, 2011

Via email: richard.baker@tdi.state.tx.us

Richard Baker
Texas Department of Insurance
Austin, Texas
Via email: ConsumerProtection@tdi.state.tx.us
Texas Department of Insurance
Austin, Texas

Re: Complaint against Ray Cammack Shows, Inc. and Houston Livestock  Show and Rodeo; Brian Greenhouse Death of March 20, 2011

Dear Mr. Baker:

I write to lodge a complaint against Ray Cammack and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (which I assume is subject to your jurisdiction as an owner or operator of the ride).  These groups were the owners and operators of a ride, the Hi Miler Roller Coaster Ride.   Brian Greenhouse was killed on March 20, 2011 when he was thrown from the first car of the ride, apparently due to a defective latching bar.  I do not represent him nor have any financial interest in his suit. I write as a concerned citizen of this state and a patron of the Rodeo.

As you are aware, Barbara Peterson lodged an official complaint against Ray Cammack and the Rodeo on March 23, 2009.  She stated that both she and her four (4) year old were almost killed when they rode in the first car of the Hi Miler Roller Coaster and the latching bar failed.  Though you asked the Carnival operators to inspect and fix it, they obviously did not heed your instructions. I have read with interest the report of their paid consultants Coulter and Associates following your directive.  The inspection was woefully inadequate, laid the problem at the feet of the manufacturers of the ride, and then suggested that a shoulder belt was not needed. (which was never really the complaint anyway).  The hazard was the defective latching bar.  The entire ride should have been shut down until they redesigned the underlying problem of the latching bar.  Unless this was corrected, it was a statistical certainty that someone would be killed.

Then, it has been widely reported that another woman who rode the Hi Miler lodged a complaint with Ray Cammack and the Rodeo only four days before the Greenhouse death.  See, http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8027027. The ride operators therefore knew that this was a reoccurring problem, yet failed to correct it, or to shut the ride down.  I feel quite certain they did not report it to you, and wonder if they even bothered to file an incident report. Given the prior report of Barbara Peterson, who I personally know to be a very credible and honest person, the ride operator’s decision to continue operations of the Hi Miler demonstrates an astonishing level of carelessness toward the safety of the rodeo patrons and their little children who ride the rides.

As you may know, Ray Shaffer, the Chief Operating Officer of the Rodeo appeared on ABC and told everyone they had never had a complaint filed alleging problems with this latching bar.  He apparently told the public in several media interviews the ride was safe.  His story was apparently untrue.  See, http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8031865

Moreover, the TDI records reflect that this incident has been falsely reported.   They state that the alleged injury was “possible internal or pre-existing injury.” That report is false.  As anyone old enough to watch the news now knows, Mr. Greenhouse is dead.  They also report that another Rodeo patron’s cause of injury: “patron fell on him.” That report is misleading at best.  They fail to mention that this patron was injured because Mr. Greenhouse flew from their roller coaster through the air and landed on his ankle.  Your regulations mandate that the ride owners and operators file truthful reports, and I trust you will decide if they followed both the letter and spirit of the rules.  See, http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/bulletins/2010/cc24.html

Additionally, the evidence suggests that those responsible for reporting these incident have engaged in a pattern of this behavior.  In 2002, I represented Kathryn Spicker, another occupant seriously injured due to Ray Cammack Show’s negligence.  During my investigation of that case, I discovered they had never reported the injury, even a year after the incident.  As I recall, there had been two other injuries reported due to the same dangerous condition around the time of the Spicker incident and those went unreported as well.   The Houston Press wrote an article complaining of the serious and ongoing problem with failing to provide the necessary reports.  See, http://www.houstonpress.com/content/printVersion/230373

The time has come for the Texas Department of Insurance to conduct a major investigation.  At the very least, TDI should subpoena witnesses from these organizations, demand the incident reports of all complaints and accidents, and ferret out what they actually knew prior to the Greenhouse death. It has been reported that out of this State’s 150 mobile carnival operations,  Ray Cammack Shows leads the entire state  in occupant injuries.See, http://www.houstonpress.com/content/printVersion/230373; (this is out of the one’s we actually know about).

The bottom line.  The public has a right to expect that the carnival rides are safe.  What we have now is a group that has shown that they are more concerned with corporate profits than the safety of our children, and their parents.  I trust that you will investigate, and take appropriate action.  If not, I fear that many others will be needlessly exposed to the dangerous operations and careless attitude of the Ride Operators.

Sincerely yours,

JOE B. STEPHENS

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