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Six Flags Inc. will pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a woman killed more than three years ago at the chain’s theme park in Arlington, Texas. Valeria Cartwright, an Arkansas native, was killed on the Roaring Rapids ride in 1999 while visiting the Texas amusement park. She drowned when the raft she was riding in overturned. She left behind a 4-year-old daughter, Dana Blunt, who was entrusted to the custody of her grandparents. The custodians sued the park on their granddaughter’s behalf. In a settlement reached with the plaintiffs, the amusement park company has agreed to pay $4 million to the family. Cartwright v. Premier Park Inc., No. 342-178075-99 (Tarrant Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). The plaintiffs were represented by Willie Gary of Stuart, Fla.’s Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando. Despite the settlement, Six Flags maintains that the manufacturer of the ride’s parts was at fault for the accident. It intends to join in a post-settlement suit against Canyon Manufacturing Co. of Kyle, Texas, a third-party defendant. THE ACCIDENT Canyon made the rubber bladders that operate like pillows to give the raft buoyancy. In an investigation following Cartwright’s death, Six Flags Over Texas reported that the loss of air pressure in the bladders had caused the accident. It found that the deflated raft was riding lower in the water, at the peril of upstream pressure that snapped the cables securing it to its base, ultimately causing the raft to overturn. In a written statement, Six Flags’ attorney, Donald H. Flanary Jr. of the Dallas office of Arter & Hadden, asserted that while the company “is not at fault, or negligent in this case, we believe it is of the utmost importance to provide a financial safety net for the victim’s 7-year-old daughter.” “At the end of this process,” he said, “we expect Canyon Manufacturing Co. will have to reimburse Six Flags Over Texas for the full amount of the four million dollar agreement.” The bulk of the settlement, more than $2.4 million, will go to Cartwright’s surviving daughter. The money is to be placed into three annuities with an eventual payout over her lifetime that could reach as much as $16 million. An additional $150,000 will go to Cartwright’s parents and $75,000 to her estate. F. Shields McManus, who served as discovery counsel alongside lead trial counsel Gary, rejected the idea that the plaintiffs have now joined forces with Six Flags in an action against the manufacturer. “There is no team approach,” he said. “We do not have an agreement. We have a common enemy.” Dwain Dent, a Fort Worth, Texas, attorney who worked with the plaintiffs’ counsel in the action against Six Flags, said the case brought forth a special passion in McManus because it involved a child. “When you have a lawyer of McManus’ quality and the Gary firm name, it makes a defendant pay attention.” he said. McManus credits his associate, Phyllis Gillespie, as having been instrumental, as an Arkansas native with ties to the Cartwright family. NO CONFIDENTIALITY PACT “The settlement is somewhat unique to me because we usually have a confidentiality agreement, and we didn’t have that here,” McManus said. The plaintiffs are “satisfied,” he added, but remain “traumatized by the sudden, unexpected loss of their only daughter.” Canyon Manufacturing is being represented by Dwayne J. Hermes and Russell S. Newhouse of Dallas’ Hermes Sargent Bates. Neither the company nor its lawyers returned calls.

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