BUFFALO – Two young girls will be awarded money from a lawsuit stemming from their father’s accidental death at Darien Lake.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of the late James Hackemer has been settled. The settlement, which came last week, will benefit Hackemer’s two young daughters, ages 4 and 5.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2011 on behalf of Hackemer’s estate. The defendants in the case were CLP Darien Lake, the real estate company that owns the land, and DLFE Management Company, the management company that runs day-to-day operations of the park. Cellino and Barnes Attorney Denis Bastible, who represented Hackemer’s family, said he could not comment on the amount or terms of the lawsuit due to confidentiality.
“It’s a confidential settlement as to the amount and the specific terms,” Bastible said. “I can’t say what the amount was.”
Other Buffalo area media outlets, reported the lawsuit include a seven-figure compensation. Bastible said he “could not confirm nor deny” when asked. The settlement came through mediation from both parties. The mediation occurred in early December and a U.S. District Court Judge approved the settlement on Jan. 2.
“The money from the settlement is going to go solely for the benefit in the future for the two infant daughters of Mr. Hackemer,” Bastible said.
Hackemer, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident July 8, 2011, at Darien Lake. Hackemer fell 150 feet off the Ride of Steel while riding the roller coaster that reaches a maximum speed of 75 mph. Investigation by the state Department of Labor cited “operator error” as the cause of the accident.
The investigation concluded the roller coaster attendants, aged 22, 21 and 18, ignored the theme park’s policy regarding safety. The requirements for the Ride of Steel state, “Must have upper body control, two legs and the complete use of at least one hand. No artificial limbs may be worn. Riders must be within a certain range of size and physical dimensions.” Hackemer who lost his left leg and most of his right leg as a result of a roadside bomb in 2009 while deployed to Iraq. He was not wearing his prosthetic legs at the time of the accident.
“Based on the litigation that we have gone through thus far and calls that I have received from other parts of the country, this accident and lawsuit have had an impact on making sure the training for employees of (amusement park) rides is more comprehensive and (employees) know who should and should not be allowed on those rides,” Bastible said.
David Brock of Jaeckle, Fleischmann and Mugel LLP represented the defendants. He said they have worked closely and cooperatively with the plaintiff throughout the litigation process.
“Both sides are happy now that (the litigation) is resolved,” Brock said. “Both (the defendants and the plaintiff) are happy we can put this behind us and move on.”
The settlement will end all claims and litigation for Hackemer, Bastible said. This was not the first lawsuit involving the Ride of Steel. In 1999, Olean resident Michael Dwaileebee was awarded $4 million by a jury after he fell 10 feet from the coaster as it was braking approaching the loading platform. The case finally settled for $2.85 million following several motions due to the jury’s verdict. The roller coaster, called the Superman at the time, installed fabric seat belts in addition to the lap bars as a result of this incident.