Woman Injured at Fireworks Show Can Sue

A Vermont woman who was hurt trying to protect her daughter from a malfunctioning July 4 fireworks display can continue her negligence lawsuit, a New York appeals court ruled.
As reported in Courthouse News, Lisa Evarts and her family were attending a fireworks show in Ticonderoga, N.Y. in 2008. The show featured over 1,000 fireworks. A half-hour into the show, one of the shells malfunctioned and blew up inside the mortar. The explosion caused a second mortar to become dislodged, and a third mortar was fired into the crowd. It struck a spectator’s cooler and exploded.
Evarts tried to shield her daughter and her daughter’s friend, but her right hand slipped on the grass, and she felt a “pop.” She suffered a torn ligament, which required 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 never personally 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 problematic. “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.