Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Firework explosions and injuries in Pennsylvania

More than eighty years ago, 10 people were killed and many homes and businesses destroyed when 30 kegs of black powder ignited at the Pennsylvania Fireworks Company in Devon.

The jury determining liability in the case against the fireworks company concluded that gas stoves and jets likely caused the multiple explosions that affected Devon and nearby towns. They recommended that Pennsylvania pass a law regarding the manufacture of fireworks.

Modern day firework injuries

Today, firework manufacturing is much safer. However, there continue to be thousands of injuries caused by fireworks every year.

In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 9,600 consumers were injured by fireworks in 2011, with most injuries occurring around the Fourth of July.

A number of things, including improper use of sparklers, use of illegal fireworks and use of unpredictable homemade fireworks, can cause injuries. However, what happens when someone else's negligence causes the fireworks injury?

For example, let's say that someone else created homemade fireworks that exploded on another person, causing significant burns. In that case, the person who created the fireworks may be held responsible for his or her actions that contributed to the injury.

What if children find fireworks in a home and set them off without adult supervision? The homeowner may be responsible for any injuries caused under premises liability and the attractive nuisance doctrine. The attractive nuisance doctrine, also called the child trespasser doctrine, states that any landowner who creates a danger that is attractive to a child and fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or protect the child is liable for the injuries that danger causes, even when that child is a trespasser.

Another scenario involves city-run fireworks. If a person is injured by a public fireworks display, he or she can hold the public entity in charge of that display responsible for the injuries.

Finally, the manufacturer of fireworks can be held accountable when its fireworks malfunction. There are now strict laws in place regarding the manufacture and sale of fireworks, many of which were sparked by the Pennsylvania Fireworks Company explosion in 1930.

Source: Mainline Media News, "The Great Pennsylvania Fireworks Company Explosions," Kathy O'Loughlin, July 6, 2012.

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