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Prince George’s County jury awards $4 million to woman injured at Six Flags

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury has awarded more than $4 million to a woman whose leg was severely fractured when a table at the Six Flags America amusement park in Bowie was lifted by gusts of wind and struck her.

Joanne Sterner suffered a comminuted fracture in her left leg, meaning a bone broke or split into more than two fragments, said Michael J. Belsky, an attorney for Sterner.

Sterner later fell due to the weakness of her leg and re-fractured her knee, Belsky said. The Pennsylvania resident subsequently had to undergo open reduction surgery to correct the fracture, which involved insertion of a plate, he said.

“She still has residual pain and a permanent injury,” said Belsky, of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner P.A. in Baltimore.

Sterner was injured during her visit to Six Flags on Sept. 8, 2012, according to her complaint, filed two years later. At around 4:15 p.m., she was heading toward the park’s main entrance to leave due to poor weather when a table than an airborne table struck her left leg, causing her to fall to the ground.

The table, which was being used to inspect the bags of people entering the park, was “not restrained or secured,” according to the suit, and was thus “susceptible to being thrown about” by the wind.

Thunderstorms were forecast for the day of Sterner’s visit, Belsky said, but Six Flags nevertheless did not take precautions to ensure guests’ safety.

“Our position was that they didn’t take any proper procedures or protocols to plan for this,” he said.

Several hours before the table struck Sterner, the National Weather Service warned of severe thunderstorms with 50-to-70 mph winds moving toward the amusement park, Belsky said. About 20 minutes before the incident, the weather service issued a tornado warning for the area, he said.

“They did nothing to remove the table that hit her,” Belsky said.

A jury of three men and three women deliberated for about half an hour after a four-day trial before ruling for Sterner, Belsky said. The award of $4.14 million included more than $91,000 in past medical expenses, $50,000 in future medical expenses and $4 million in noneconomic damages, which will be capped at $755,000.

“We disagree with the verdict and we are going to pursue post-judgment motions and an appeal if necessary,” said David A. Skomba of Franklin & Prokopik PC in Baltimore, an attorney for Six Flags.

Joanne Sterner v. Six Flags America LP, et al.

Court: Prince George’s County Circuit

Case No.: CAL14-28601

Judges: Erik H. Nyce and Lawrence V. Hill Jr.

Outcome: $4.1 million for plaintiff: $4 million in noneconomic damages (capped at $755,000); $91,647.75 in past medical expenses, $50,000 in future medical expenses


Incident: Sept. 8, 2012

Suit filed: Oct. 8, 2014

Verdict: May 12, 2016

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Michael J. Belsky of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner P.A. in Baltimore and Richard J. Weitzman of the Law Offices of Richard J. Weitzman PC in Philadelphia

Defendants’ Attorneys: David A. Skomba and Tamara B. Goorevitz of Franklin & Prokopik PC in Baltimore

Count: Negligence

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.