Six Flags Over Georgia lost an attempt to persuade the trial court to toss a $35 million verdict — the biggest one in the state last year — for a teen who was attacked after leaving the theme park.
Cobb County State Court Judge Kathryn Tanksley, who presided over the nine-day trial last year, rejected Six Flags’ motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a motion for a new trial.
Joshua Martin, then 19, was attacked by a gang outside the park entrance as he waited for a bus. Four Six Flags employees pleaded guilty or were convicted of aggravated assault and participating in gang activities in relation to Martin’s attack.
Evidence presented at the trial showed the employees randomly selected Martin, who was celebrating a friend’s acceptance to college, to attack while in the park. The gang followed Martin outside, and one assailant testified he hit Martin with brass knuckles that he hid in a flower bed while he was at work in the park. Martin was beaten into a coma and suffered permanent brain damage.
A Cobb County jury deliberated for two days before awarding $35 million in damages to the Martin family, including $7 million for his lifetime care.
Six Flags argued that the case should never have been put before a jury because the park didn’t own the property where the crime took place and cited several cases in which courts have determined that businesses are not liable for injuries taking place off their premises.
The judge disagreed. “I have no doubt that the court could decide whether this was Six Flags property. I don’t think Georgia law says I have to decide. Let the jury decide the case fairly.”
The attorney for the plaintiff argued that the evidence shows that Six Flags was responsible for the area of the attack because it was near a bus stop used only by employees and customers and was maintained as park property, barricaded it and patrolled it.
“Their website says take the bus. If you induce people to use an approach, it becomes your approach,” plaintiffs argued. “It’s foreseeable because you told your customers to go that way. That’s what Six Flags has been doing for years. It was the final approach to the park. There’s no other business there. They knew this was a dangerous area. They had ample opportunity to prevent this and they failed to do so.”
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