Articles Tagged with “John Leighton”

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Once again a tourist lured by the thrill of parasailing has ended a ride in the hospital.  This time it was an American woman who was parasailing while on vacation in Mexico. Katie Malone was visiting Puerto Vallarta for her birthday last month when she went parasailing. A model in San Diego, Ms. Malone was suspended in the air when the tow line broke, leaving her floating untethered in the air for about 45 minutes. As ABC News reports, she eventually crash landed and suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured pelvis, skull and ribs, a collapsed lung and facial injuries. She also sustained head injuries that required her being evacuated back to California.

This incident is one of many which have plagued the parasailing industry for years.  Virtually unregulated, someone parasailing can meet a terrible fate any number of ways.  The loss of control from the tow rope is among the worst,a s the parasailor can catapult at high speed into buildings and fixed objects.  Those who land in the water can drown while strapped into the harness or get caught in the parachute.

Following the case involving the tragic parasailing death of Amber May White and injury to her sister Crystal off the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida, Leighton Law’s John Elliott Leighton brought suit against the parasailing company and resort which arranged the amusement.  After successfully recovering for the family, Leighton and Amber’s mother Shannon Kraus fought for passage of the nation’s first parasailing safety law, the White-Miskell Act.  Leighton has lectured and published articles on parasailing and resort safety and continues to fight for strong safety laws for tourists.

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Almost 31,000 people end up in the emergency room from injuries suffered at amusement parks and theme parks. Many are minor, some are catastrophic.  But one thing they have in common…no federal regulation.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission only oversees mobile amusements such as carnivals.  That means that fixed-site or permanent amusements (like Disney, Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Universal) are inspected or regulated by the states, if they so choose.  And in any manner the state chooses.

With the pull back of safety regulations by the government, it is expected that there will be more incidents causing more injuries.  Summer is the most active time at amusement parks, filled with out-of-school children and vacationers trying to take in some fun.  Many states regulate and inspect amusement parks, but at least six (Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah) have no regulation at all. And in one case in Texas, operator Six Flags was in charge of investigating its own accident which caused the death of a woman.

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For the first time ever, Florida’s parasailing businesses have to comply with safety regulations.

Florida Statute 327.02 (“Miskell-White Act”) requires commercial parasailing operators to log weather conditions before beginning each parasailing, forbids operations during hazardous weather conditions, and requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. It also requires minimum liability insurance, which has plagued this industry where fly-by-night operators opened and closed their businesses at will. Previously this was a completely unregulated industry where anyone with a boat, tow rope and parachute could charge money to take people aloft under any conditions.

John Leighton and our client Shannon Kraus (mother of Amber May White) fought tirelessly for seven years to see this law come to fruition. It is a result of almost yearly tragedies that have occurred during parasailing activities in Florida. In 2007, Shannon lost her 15 year-old daughter Amber May White, for which the new law is named. Amber May’s tragedy just foreshadowed years of repetitive injuries and deaths until Florida’s legislature finally took action.