Each year, many Georgians celebrate the 4th of July by purchasing and setting off their own fireworks despite the known safety risks. Unfortunately, this can lead to tragic outcomes. Not only is there is the potential for something to go wrong when setting off fireworks in an unsupervised environment–the mere act of transporting them can pose a risk to life and limb as well.
Pisciotti v. Abney
A recent lawsuit filed in Valdosta, Georgia federal court, Pisciotti v. Abney, offers just one example of what can go wrong. This case involves an accident that occurred on the 4th of July in 2017. Four teenagers were traveling in a Jeep through Hamilton County, Florida. The driver is one of the defendants in this case, while the victim was one of his passengers.
While riding on County Road 145, the driver lost control of the Jeep. The vehicle veered onto the shoulder of the road. The driver then “overcorrected,” according to court filings, causing the Jeep to cross the northbound lane of the road and into a ditch. The Jeep eventually struck a tree. To make matters worse, the Jeep also contained fireworks. Two stores in Florida allegedly sold the fireworks to the driver and another one of the passengers.
According to a lawsuit filed by the victim’s parents on behalf of their son, the fireworks stores were negligent in selling fireworks to minors. The lawsuit maintains that the two stores, together with the negligent driver, should be held liable for the injuries sustained by the victim in the accident.
The lawsuit noted that the victim’s parents have already incurred over $150,000 in medical expenses related to their son’s post-accident care–and that figure is expected to increase going forward. Indeed, the lawsuit asserts the plaintiffs’ son “has suffered permanent bodily injuries.”
With respect to the law, the lawsuit asserts claims of negligence per se against the driver. Among other things, the lawsuit cites the driver’s alleged reckless driving, failure to keep a proper look out, failure to keep his vehicle under control, driving too fast for conditions, and texting while driving as factors that contributed to the accident. The lawsuit also names the driver’s parents as co-defendants, alleging they “negligently entrusted” their son with the Jeep in the first place.
It is, of course, important to remember that a lawsuit is simply a statement of allegations. It is not a final judgment or a finding of negligence. This lawsuit remains pending before Judge Hugh Lawson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Although personal injury claims usually involve questions of state law, such cases can be heard in federal court when the parties are from different states. Here, the fireworks defendants are non-Georgia corporations.