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Morey's Piers sued over girl's death in fall from Ferris wheel

The parents of an 11-year-old girl who died after falling off a Ferris wheel in Wildwood last month have sued the amusement park.

The parents of an 11-year-old girl who died after falling off a Ferris wheel in Wildwood last month have sued the amusement park.

In a suit filed Thursday in Common Pleas Court, attorneys for the family of Abiah Jones argue that Morey's Piers was negligent for placing the fifth grader in the Ferris wheel gondola alone and for failing to provide passenger safety restraints on the 160-foot-high ride.

A report released last month by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs speculated that Abiah, a Pleasantville, N.J., resident who was on a school trip, might have fallen after she knelt or stood on her seat or leaned out too far.

According to the suit, winds at the park - located next to the Atlantic Ocean - were high on June 3, the day of the accident. The gondolas can swing 90 degrees or more and "are dependent on symmetric weight distribution, calm winds, and proper operation for stability," the suit said.

A spokeswoman for Morey's Piers declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Jeffrey Reiff, who with Philadelphia lawyer Jim Beasley Jr. is representing Abiah's parents, Byron and Twanda Jones, declined to answer questions about the lawsuit.

"The family really isn't looking for publicity right now," said Reiff, whose firm also is in Philadelphia. "We're about doing the right thing for the client, rather than headlines."

On Thursday, Beasley told the Philadelphia Daily News that winds of around 25 m.p.h. could have caused the gondolas to swing.

The family was previously represented by Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky in Philadelphia and the D'Amato Law Firm in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. Saltz Mongeluzzi is representing the families of two young Hungarian tourists killed last summer when a duck vehicle was hit by a barge on the Delaware River.

Last month, the Joneses took part in a tearful news conference at Saltz Mongeluzzi's offices in which they described the moment they learned their daughter had died.

"My clients have been tortured, shuttled around from press conference to press conference, and it bothered them," Reiff said. "They're grieving the loss of their 11-year-old daughter."

The filing of the suit in Philadelphia likely represents a strategic move on the part of the plaintiffs. The Joneses' attorneys have argued that Pennsylvania is the appropriate jurisdiction because the amusement park does business and markets itself there.

Philadelphia is widely considered a favorable venue for plaintiffs' suits.

"The jury verdicts are substantially larger and more frequently returned in Philadelphia than they are, for example, in the counties," said Edward D. Ohlbaum, a Temple University law professor. "That's not inconsistent with most major urban areas."