Ballpark slides into safety lawsuit 

As Opening Day for the Giants approaches, the team is facing a $6 million lawsuit over the safety of its giant Coca-Cola slide.

It is the fourth lawsuit the team and Coca-Cola have been slapped with since the slide opened in 2000, when AT&T Park was christened. A court-ordered mediation over the suit failed to arrive at an agreement and is expected to proceed to trial in May.

The team has admitted that at least 55 people have been injured on the slide that whips people down metal tubes through a 60-foot Coca-Cola bottle, which looms over the concourse behind the left-field bleachers. The team has also produced documents indicating the slide has failed two safety inspections in recent years.

The injuries have typically occurred when a person’s shoe grips against the slide during a sharp turn and twists the person’s leg behind them, in some cases damaging the foot, ankle or knee, said attorney Fred Meis, who is representing Chad Mello in the most recent case.

According to court documents, Mello was at the ballpark on July 23, 2008, when he went down the slide, and the trip down caused severe and permanent injury to his left knee and ankle, for which he needed surgery and treatment, and now suffers from chronic pain syndrome. His family lost its home because he could not work, Meis said.

Meis has argued that in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages, the Giants and Coca-Cola — and several other companies associated with the slide — should be forced to pay punitive damages, since he said they knew of the dangers of the attraction and have refused to warn people or change its design.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola deferred comment to the Giants, and a spokeswoman for the team said they would not comment because of the ongoing litigation. The slide was designed by Hags Play, which has already reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Mello.

If the previous lawsuits are any indication, things may end well for Mello. In 2001, a year after the attraction opened, Antoinette Douglas broke her knee in two places on the slide and Coca-Cola and the Giants settled on confidential terms. They also settled in 2003 with Lisa Munson Cooter, who shattered her knee, and Meis said she was paid $1 million.

In 2002, Terree Roush sustained injuries on the slide, and that case was litigated for six years. Finally, in November 2008, a jury awarded her $177,823.

Meis said only punitive damages in the millions of dollars will effect change in the slide’s design.

“They’ve known about this for years and they have done nothing,” he said. “Inspections have proven the slide is unsafe, yet they continue to publicize it.”

 

Park slide facts

2000: Slides opened
4: Slides inside the Coca-Cola bottle, including two long Guzzler slides and two Twist-Off slides
55: People known to have been injured on the slides since 2000
2: Safety inspections the slides have failed
60: Length of Guzzler slides, in feet
130,000: Weight of Coca-Cola bottle, in pounds
47: Height of Coca-Cola bottle, in feet.

Source: San Francisco Giants, attorney Fred Meis.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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