For some, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. Pools begin to fill, children are out of school (or will be out of school soon), cars are being prepared for summer vacations, and backyard barbeques are happening with regularity once more. Some consider fireworks displays to also be an essential part of summer celebrations. While supervised displays of fireworks sponsored by municipalities, amusement parks and other such organizations are permitted under Massachusetts law, the private use of fireworks is illegal.
Dangers of Fireworks Displays
However, just because some activity is illegal does not mean people always refrain from engaging in it. Both legal and illegal fireworks displays can be dangerous. The site www.preventblindness.org reports that approximately 6,000 people in the United States go to emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries each year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention indicated that, in 2005, four people died and 10,800 people in the United States sought emergency room treatment because of fireworks mishaps.
The CDC’s 2005 study also yielded the following statistics:
- 60% of injuries occurred between June 18 and July
- 45% of people injured were children ages 14 years and
- Males are more than twice as likely to be injured by fireworks than
- Children ages 10 to 14 years had the highest rate for fireworks-related injuries;
- Injuries most often occurred to the hands and fingers, eyes, and the head and face.
While some fireworks may appear relatively safe or harmless, fireworks can cause serious injuries such as:
- Severe, life-threatening burns;
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement; and
- In some cases, death.
Finally, fireworks have the potential to start fires, threatening lives and property.
Injured by a Fireworks Display
You may think that if you go to someone’s house and another guest begins to set off fireworks and you or a loved one is injured, you can sue the homeowner for the injuries that result. But a Massachusetts court case from several years ago suggests recovering compensation under these circumstances might not be so easy.
In that case, Thomas Berube hosted a party for about fifty individuals. While the party was going on, unidentified individuals set off a fireworks display in Mr. Berube’s backyard. It was unclear who had brought the fireworks and who began to set them off, but Mr. Berube and his wife knew of the fireworks display occurring in their own backyard. As the display continued, a guest, Dominic Luoni, moved away from the display. As he did, he heard an explosion and felt something hit him in the eye. He was left with a permanent defect in his vision in his left eye. Mr. Luoni sued e Mr. Berube.
The Supreme Judicial Court found that Mr. Berube was not liable to Mr. Luoni for the injuries. The Court noted that, as a general rule, a landowner does not owe a duty to affirmatively protect others against dangerous or unlawful acts committed by third persons. Note, though, that this case’s outcome was dictated by its facts. Had Mr. Berube set off the fireworks display, or had he provided the fireworks to the unidentified individuals, the outcome might have been different. Similarly, had Mr. Luoni identified and sued the unknown individuals who did set off the display, he might have been able to recover damages.
Contact us today at (508) 755-7535 for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured by a fireworks accident. Regardless of whether the display was legal or illegal, we will investigate the facts of your case to determine if you have any rights to recover compensation for your injuries.