July 10, 2014

German executive to be questioned in Houston in roller coaster lawsuit

The deposition of Siegfried Gerstlauer, managing director of Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, is part of litigation filed by the family of the Dallas woman who was killed after falling from Texas Giant at Six Flags in Arlington last year.

A Tarrant County judge decided Thursday that the top executive at a German company that designed the cars on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas, where a Dallas woman was thrown to her death last year, will come to Texas to be deposed.

Judge Wade Birdwell of the 342nd State District Court said lawyers for Rosa Esparza, 52, who died July 19, 2013, after falling from the ride at the Arlington theme park, can question Managing Director Siegfried Gerstlauer in the Houston office of Reed Smith, the law firm that represents the company. Gerstlauer’s main attorney, Arnd von Waldow, works out of a Pittsburgh office. The deposition has been scheduled for Aug. 19.

The judge, though, postponed ruling on when and where depositions of three other company employees and a company consultant, Franz Maier, will be conducted. The employees are all German nationals and under that country’s laws can only be questioned under certain circumstances in Germany, at the U.S. Consulate’s office in Frankfurt and with permission of the German officials.

Lawyers for all the parties, including Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment, have debated for several months about where Gerstlauer’s deposition should be taken, and at one point considered a European country. But Gerstlauer’s lawyers agreed to have him travel to the U.S.

Von Waldow said taking the deposition of Gerstlauer is “absolutely no roadblock at all, just a matter of where it happened.”

Gerstlauer’s lawyers told the judge they would have preferred the depositions of all five potential witnesses be done in Europe at one time.

The family filed the lawsuit Sept. 10, 2013, against Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and three other Six Flags-related entities, as well as Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the 60-employee company based in Münsterhausen. Six Flags and Gerstlauer have also filed cross claims, each blaming the other for the accident.

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