This article examines the history and cultural meaning of Coney Island and its amusement parks, as well as Cardozo's biography, in an effort to discover the basis for that feeling of contempt. It shows that a variety of attributes of Coney Island, most notably its embrace of what was, for its day, a robust and open sexuality and carnival spirit, were alien and threatening to Cardozo's Victorian values. It also shows how this clash of values would have naturally inclined Cardozo to think of Coney Island as a dangerous place and led him to Murphy's assumption of risk analysis. It further shows, however, that Steeplechase might have been thought of in a very different way, as a safe space in which park goers were invited to let down their guard and take apparent risks in a safe setting. In so doing, the article explores both the hidden history of the Murphy case and the suppressed alternative reading of law and facts that is similarly hidden by Cardozo's opinion.


Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co, Inc.

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Cardozo Law Review

Publication Information

25 Cardozo Law Review 2189 (2004)

Included in

Torts Commons


COinS Robert N. Strassfeld Faculty Bio