Woman Can Pursue Fireworks Injury Claim
(CN) - A Vermont woman who was hurt trying to shield her daughter from a malfunctioning July 4 fireworks display can continue her negligence lawsuit, a New York appeals court ruled.
Lisa J. Evarts was camping with her family and friends in 2008 when they decided to watch the fireworks show in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The show included 1,075 fireworks. After the first half-hour of the show, one of the shells malfunctioned and blew up inside the mortar.
This explosion caused a second mortar to become dislodged, and another mortar was fired toward the crowd. It struck a spectator's cooler and exploded.
Evarts tried to protect her daughter and her daughter's friend, but her right hand slipped on the grass, and she felt a "pop." She suffered a torn collateral ligament and needed surgery.
Evarts filed a negligence and product liability lawsuit against Pyro Engineering Inc. The trial court dismissed her claim, but the Albany-based Third Department New York Appellate Division ruled that the negligence portion of her claim could continue.
"Here, defendants possessed, furnished, set up and ignited a large supply of dangerous fireworks and, as such, were bound to exercise a high degree of care in order to prevent injury to others," Justice John C. Egan Jr. wrote for the court.
While one defendant testified that he had not experienced that kind of detonation, he said he knew that it was "an occurrence in the industry."
Egan ruled that the evidence showed that Evarts was sitting in the "zone of foreseeable harm.
"When plaintiff returned to the ball field the following day, she observed scorch marks on the grass - presumably caused by flaming debris from the detonated shell - approximately 20 feet away from where she was sitting," Egan wrote.
Egan cited evidence that the fireworks show was fraught with problems.
"The record nonetheless contains numerous references to the allegedly disorganized nature of the fireworks show and the purported difficulties the defendants' technicians were having with detonating the devices - as well as one technician's alleged insistence that 'the show go on' even after the shells malfunctioned," Egan found.