Super Wheels, Miami's Last Roller Rink, Accused of Dangerous Conditions

Teresina Wallace skated for hours without falling at Super Wheels Skating Center in Kendall. It was April 16, 2011, and the mild-mannered bank manager had brought her family for a day of adrenaline on eight wheels. But when Wallace stepped off the rink to return the rented equipment, her skate slipped on a wet patch of carpet. Suddenly, she was on the ground. Pain ran up her leg like fire. "My foot was twisted outwards at a 90-degree angle," Wallace remembers. "Something was very wrong."

Wallace says her tale shows that Super Wheels has dangerous conditions. But the rink's owner, Thomas G. Mitchell, says it proves something else entirely: how litigious customers have put every other rink out of business.

Here's what Wallace says happened the day she got hurt: Instead of tending to her leg, Super Wheels employees checked her wrist, where she wore a band showing she had signed a legal waiver before skating. Satisfied she couldn't sue, Wallace says, an employee wrenched the skate off her ankle before calling 911.

The injury required six screws and a metal plate. But when Wallace tried to find an attorney to sue Super Wheels, the waiver stood in the way.

"Injuries like this obviously happen a lot. That's why they've crafted this crafty little thing they have you sign," she says. "It's crazy. They are a public facility, and a bunch of children go there. They should create a safer environment."

Wallace is far from the first person to complain about Super Wheels. Over the past decade, 30 people have sued the company, mostly for injuries at the skating rink. In the past year, four people have filed suits blaming Super Wheels for their accidents despite signing legal waivers promising the opposite. Last year, a mother sued after a broken skate allegedly injured her son. One woman claimed she "was injured when she tripped and fell due to pizza sauce... on the floor." Yet nearly all of the cases were dropped or are languishing in court.

Mitchell says the reason is simple: "Waivers waive somebody's right to sue us... This has been gone over by many attorneys. It's part of the cost of doing business in South Florida." He has been running the rink since 1986, when it was called Hot Wheels and had a dozen competitors. (It changed names in 2009.) Now Super Wheels is the only rink in town partly because of sky-high insurance costs.

"South Florida is now far more litigious than most places around the country," Mitchell says. Super Wheels has 48 cameras in place to capture accidents. But despite waivers and video evidence, people keep suing (and, for the most part, losing).

When it comes to Wallace, Mitchell claims videos show her arriving with a limp, slipping on clean carpet, and removing her own skate.

"We show that people are lying and always trying to go after that dollar," he says of the suits. "We're sorry that they get hurt. We even give them passes to come back."

Wallace, at least, isn't interested in strapping on skates again. "It concerns me for the public, and it angers me," she says. "I have to deal with this injury for the rest of my life, and it's their fault."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.