Enjoying the Outdoors
Sitting around a fire pit enjoying the outdoors, chatting with your friends and neighbors, watching the kids toast their marshmallows all sounds like a perfect way to relax. That may be what the four people who were severely injured at their Long Island get-together were thinking about just before their fire pit exploded. The pain, lasting burn scars, distress, and medical costs all lead to the question, "If that happened to me or anyone else, who is legally responsible?"
Where Does the Liability Lie?
Many people make their own fire pits, buy them pre-owned over the internet or from folks they know, and others buy them brand new from reputable retailers. If it is defective in some way, and there is an explosion, injury, or fire damage can you, the victim, make a claim, and against whom do you make it?
Firstly, let us look at New York City law:
- Fire pits, whether defective or not, are illegal in the City. It is that simple. If you build or buy a fire pit and light it, you are breaking the law.
- If there is injury or damage caused by that fire pit you are in a difficult and unclear position. If you own it and permit its use, you carry some responsibility. If you were merely sitting close to it, then could you carry liability for taking part in an illegal act?
- If you trip and fall because the fire pit malfunctions, was the fall caused by the malfunction or for some other reason?
However unclear any particular event may be, homeowner, condo, or co-op insurance covering a NYC property will not cover any costs associated with any subsequent action.
What About Outside City Limits?
Many localities in the State permit open fires and the use of fire pits. You should check the rules:
- What does your municipality say is acceptable?
- Do you need a permit?
- What is considered "acceptable" fire pit use, and what is "unacceptable?"
- What conditions must you meet for your insurance carrier to cover mishaps and accidents?
If you do not check these topics before any accident, you may find you are responsible not only for injury and damage, but also for civil action because you did not follow the rules and guidelines.
Before you construct or buy a fire pit, check with your municipality and insurance carrier so you know what is permitted and what is not. Have an expert check the pit for acceptable performance. Then, in the event there is injury or property damage, seek legal advice. Please feel free to contact us by clicking here. We will be happy to offer a free initial consultation.