Family that filed lawsuit against carnival wants change


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A Belgrade woman says she wants to see change after learning a young girl crashed to the ground on a ride at the Gallatin Valley Fair. She told us her own children got hurt on a North Star Amusements ride at the fair a few years ago -- an incident that ended in a lawsuit.

We've been telling you about 13-year-old Melissa Cotton, who suffered a broken pelvic bone after a bungee cord reportedly snapped on a carnival ride on Friday.

North Star Amusements would only tell us their insurance company is now investigating.

This week we learned there are no state agencies that regulate carnival rides or their operators.

Sifting through Gallatin County court documents, we found a 2011 lawsuit over a July 2009 crash of a North Star Amusements ride filed by Jared and Debra Schroeder. The documents claimed the Dragon Wagon roller coaster track broke while the coaster was rounding a corner, causing it to stop at full speed and hurting the Schroeders' two children.

We tracked down Debra Schroeder on Tuesday. She declined to go on camera but told NBC Montana their family had more than $60,000 in medical bills following the crash.

Schroeder said hearing of Cotton's injury made her, "Sick to her stomach" and she "feels terrible" knowing what the Cotton family is now going through.

The lawsuit filed by the Schroeders blamed North Star for not keeping up maintenance on the ride, and Gallatin County for failing to provide a safe atmosphere at the fair.

The suit called for more than $1 million in damages. The family settled out of court and the case was dismissed in January 2014.

Schroeder couldn't share the amount of the settlement but called it "pathetic," explaining it only covered about half of her children's medical expenses. She says the family hasn't been back to the fair since the ordeal and hopes, after this second incident, the county will hire a different carnival company.

The lawsuit was filed just six days after the Gallatin County Commission signed their most recent 3-year contract with North Star Amusements. That contract expires this year.

Neither the fairgrounds nor commissioners will comment on the contract or whether they plan to sign another contract with North Star going forward.