Fireworks atorneys
Fireworks Explosion in the sky

By Attorney Michael Ehline – This last Independence Day weekend has been tragic for the Yanks out it California, USA. First, there is this tragic explosion with burn injuries, and then the San Francisco aviation wreck with two deaths and serious burns to the bodies of passengers. The Simi Valley Rotary Club hired New York company Bay Fireworks for their 4th of July show at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park. Where, it is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 people attended to watch the 25 minute display.

Approximately five minutes into the fireworks show the explosion occurred injuring spectators. Under California law, explosives bring with them a “strict liability” to the manufacturer or controller.  Here, the issue would be whether or not the audience waived strict liability in order to watch the show, and whether or not that waiver would preclude the negligent discharge into the audience, if negligence was present.

The facts indicate that there were 28 people injured in what officials believe was a pyrotechnic premature explosion that caused a chain reaction of other fireworks to be shot into the crowd of spectators. The New York company in a statement said they deeply regretted the incident. Bay Fireworks also said they will conduct a full investigation into the incident. The statement went on to say that public safety has and will always be top priority.

Bay Fireworks said their main concern and focus is on the injured spectators and their families. They stated that anyone who was injured at the show contact the Simi Valley Rotary Club for the fireworks company’s insurance information.  The New York fireworks company said they will make the information from their investigation public.

The spectators who were injured ranged in age from 8 to 78 years old. Officials said that 20 people were transported by ambulance to local hospitals, with four of the injured suffering serious, but not life-threatening injuries. Bay Fireworks stated that they held the proper permits by local authorities having jurisdiction for the show. One police officer was struck by a projectile from the fireworks explosion that cut through his leather belt.  That is pretty scary right?

According to the Bay Fireworks information they have produced events at Walt Disney World, the Republican National Convention, NASA, the New York Mets and other large events. They say they are a staff that is highly qualified and train regularly, who use only equipment that is inspected and approved by authorities.  So clearly, the potential defendant here, Bay Fireworks, has the experience to do things properly.  But did they do it right?

According to authorities there is an ongoing investigation into the incident and at this point believe that it was an industrial accident. They said there have been no indications of foul play warranting a criminal investigation. Police marked off the area and authorities waited for the Bay Fireworks team to remove their pyrotechnics.

Along with authorities the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be investigating the incident. Bay Fireworks plans to work closely with authorities within the coming weeks in Simi Valley, local, state and federal agencies to determine what caused the incident  and to ensure it does not happen again. Friday morning in the aftermath of the fireworks explosion the area was littered with lawn chairs and barbecue grills, with some people returning to collect their belongings.
Teenager Josh Antonucci age 16 said that he and approximately 20 family members attend the annual show. He said he, his cousin and a friend were near the front row when they say the fireworks tip over and said it they heard a boom.

Antonucci said he was struck by something in the back, but wasn’t sure what it was and the person next to him was hit in the face. He said whatever struck him was not hot or cold, but felt like he was pouched and he took off running. He said there was a lot of panic during the incident and there was also people helping each other.

In any event, California law makes it illegal to shield ones-self from their own negligence.  So assuming negligence was present, and strict liability does not come into play, this is a future lawsuit with legs.  Let’s see what the investigation yields and pray for the victims. At least one case Harris v. Trojan, will make it potentially hard for the display company.

Resources:

Basis of Liability for Fireworks Accidents: http://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3467&context=wlulr

Times News on Simi Valley Tragedy: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-76568589/

Article by Steven Sweat, Injury Attorney LA: http://www.californiaaccidentattorneysblog.com/2013/07/07/when-does-a-fireworks-explosion-become-negligence-under-california-law/