Judge meets privately with attorneys in Six Flags lawsuit

01/24/2014 6:45 PM

11/12/2014 3:55 PM

The judge hearing the lawsuit filed by the family of a woman killed when she fell off a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington last summer met with attorneys Friday to discuss allegations of misconduct during a deposition.

Seven attorneys met in private with 342nd District Judge J. Wade Birdwell for nearly an hour. According to the court docket, the hearing was scheduled to discuss a motion filed by attorneys for Six Flags requesting that the plaintiffs’ attorneys stop using medical examiner’s photographs of the dead woman during depositions of Six Flags employees.

In other motions, the two sides have accused each other of inappropriate conduct during one seven-hour deposition.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys say the defense stalled discovery in the case by refusing to produce any other witnesses for depositions unless they agree not to use photographs showing the victim’s body at the accident scene.

“We had the meeting in chambers by agreement,” said Frank Branson, an attorney for the family of Rosa Esparza, 52, of Dallas, who was killed July 19 on the Texas Giant.

Branson said that after arguments were made, the judge offered his thoughts on the issues and asked the attorneys to draft an order dealing with the motions. He did not elaborate on the discussion. Each side has asked for sanctions against the other.

“All those issues were dealt with by the court,” Branson said. “The judge gave the lawyers his thoughts. The lawyers will get together and draft orders and submit them for the judge’s approval. If we can’t agree, the judge will interject.”

No deadline was set for filing the orders, but Branson said it will happen quickly.

Branson also spoke briefly about Esparza’s relatives, saying they are doing “as well as you can expect under the circumstances.”

“This was a wonderful lady. She was the glue that held the family together,” he said. “It was a big loss.”

Esparza’s family sued in September, naming as defendants Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., Six Flags Theme Park Inc., Texas Flags Ltd. and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the German company that made the ride. Six Flags and Gerstlauer have denied liability in the case.

The family is seeking more than $1 million.

The Texas Giant was shut down the night of Esparza’s fatal fall, and it reopened in September after Six Flags said its investigation found that no mechanical failure was involved.

Six Flags has since added redesigned restraint-bar pads from the manufacturer, as well as new seat belts, and it began providing a coaster seat at the ride’s entrance so guests can test whether they fit adequately.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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