One week after a Ferris wheel accident that injured a family of three in Port Townsend, the company that operates the ride is the first party to make a legal move.
Funtastic Travelling Shows asked a judge to force the deposition of its own employees, and soon.
One of the Ferris wheel buckets suddenly tipped over while the ride was in operation on May 18. Three people inside that bucket were injured when they fell about 15 feet to a metal platform below.
59-year-old Shawn Swartwood sustained the most serious injuries. She is still being treated at a medical center in Port Townsend. Her partner, 47-year-old Crystal Groth, and their son, 7-year-old Mikhail Groth Swartwood, were treated at a Port Townsend hospital and released.
Funtastic is already expecting to be sued by the family, according to court documents. In advance of a possible lawsuit the company says it's concerned that three of its employees who were operating the ride on that day may soon be leaving the country.
"The petitioner desires to establish what interaction the operators had with the passengers before and during the incident,” attorneys for Funtastic wrote in court documents filed on Wednesday. “The petitioner further desires to establish the personal observations of the operators."
The documents say the ride operators are Funtastic employees, but are residents of Mexico and are expected to return to Mexico in the near future.
"Once the operators have returned to Mexico, it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to locate the operators and take testimony," attorneys wrote.
A hearing on the matter is set for June 23 at 1 p.m. Before that, attorneys for the victims' family will have an opportunity to file a formal response.
"My recommendation would be let's not victim blame the people that now have to learn to walk again," said attorney Ashton Dennis, who represents the victims. "My client is still trying to get better and get healthy and Funtastic is trying to get their story out there. In this case, what they're trying to do is get trial testimony secured within weeks of an event, which is completely unheard of."
Dennis says this is an extremely rare legal move that he's never seen before in "hundreds, if not thousands" of other cases his firm has been a part of.
"Why is this so terribly necessary? All three of these gentlemen are all of a sudden leaving the country forever? This has never happened," he said.
But the lawyer representing Funtastic disputes that claim.
Attorney Pat Buchanan told KING 5 she's been litigating cases for almost 30 years and has made this same legal request on numerous occasions. She says it's not an uncommon course of action at all.
Instead, Buchanan calls it a "proactive step" to make sure both parties have equal access to the facts.
"These are employees of my client. I could've talked to them yesterday. I could've talked to them today. I could talk to them tomorrow. What I am doing by this petition is allowing the lawyer for the family to talk to these employees early," said Buchanan. "Quite frankly, in some regards I'm doing them a favor. They can come and talk to these employees and ask them any questions they want."
Funtastic claimed earlier this month the bucket tipped over because the three occupants were moving around and possibly standing while the ride was in operation.
Dennis and his clients insist that's not true.
"They're not mad they were hurt," he said. "What they're really upset about is the fact that within a couple of hours of this happening there were attorneys on site and the CEO of a big company saying they're at fault, 100 percent at fault. It's just not true."
A judge will decide whether to approve or deny Funtastic's request at the June 23 court hearing.