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Roller coaster report leads to $4 million libel award

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Roller coaster report leads to $4 million libel award 03/23/98 KENTUCKY--In early March a jury in Louisville awarded almost four…

Roller coaster report leads to $4 million libel award

03/23/98

KENTUCKY–In early March a jury in Louisville awarded almost four million dollars to an amusement park that sued a local television station over a story about safety problems with one of its rides.

The jury decided that WHAS-TV in Louisville would have to pay the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park $475,000 for lost profits, $1 million for damage to the park’s reputation and $2.5 million in punitive damages. The park had asked the jury to award more than $7 million in total damages.

The Kentucky Kingdom sued WHAS for libel after the station broadcast a series of reports in July 1994 and May 1996 about safety problems with the park’s Starchaser roller coaster. The first reports followed an accident on the ride in which a girl suffered a lacerated liver.

According to the Kentucky Kingdom, the report falsely stated that the roller coaster had malfunctioned, that state inspectors considered it dangerous, and that park employees had removed a key component of the ride.

The station responded that its reports were an accurate account of safety problems with the Starchaser and the investigation of the accident.

An attorney for WHAS told the Associated Press that the station planned to appeal the verdict. (Kentucky Kingdom v. WHAS-TV; Media Counsel: Schuyler Olt, Louisville)