A Connecticut carnival ride lost power Sunday afternoon, leaving 18 people, most of them children, injured. When the “swing” ride at the Oyster Festival in Norwalk lost power, riders immediately fell to the ground.
Twelve children and one adult were transported to hospitals in the area, many suffering from broken bones. Five others at the scene refused treatment. All but one victim were released by Sunday evening. The remaining hospitalized patient sufered non-life threatening injuries, however.
Other rides at the festival were shut down following the accident, but reopened later in the day after inspection.
At the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we want to help you and your loved ones in Connecticut if you have been harmed due to a property owner’s negligence or a defective product. Learn more about filing a product or premises liability claim by calling 860.560.7226.
An accident involving two portable trailers resulted in the death of a Connecticut man on Thursday, April 18, 2013, at a construction site in Northampton, Massachusetts. Multiple government agencies are investigating the accident, including local police, Massachusetts State Police, state health regulators, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Investigators are searching for the cause of the accident as well as any regulatory violations that might have contributed to it.
The accident occurred shortly before 9:40 a.m. Thursday morning, at the construction site for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) building in Northampton. Some details of the accident remain unclear, but media reports indicate that three men were involved in assembling two portable trailers intended for use as temporary office buildings while the DOT’s permanent building was under renovation. The trailers shifted somehow, trapping the three men, who were either inside one of the trailers or between the two trailers. One of the men was able to escape without injury, while another suffered “non-life-threatening injuries,” according to the Associated Press. The second man was taken to a nearby hospital at about 10:00 a.m. The third man, a 56 year-old resident of Bristol, Connecticut, died of the injuries sustained in the accident. Emergency responders were reportedly unable to extract his body from the accident site until 12:30 p.m. All three of the men worked for Trico Welding, which was contracted by the state for the construction job.
An accident at a Connecticut ski resort injured five people on New Year’s Day 2013 when a cable towing a group of people up the mountain in an inner tube broke. Accidents such as these are apparently rather common, as another accident at the same resort less than a year earlier injured three people. Claims for injuries against a ski resort, using a theory of premises liability, are difficult because of the danger inherent in the activity, although a claimant may be able to claim a product defect against a tube or lift manufacturer.
The accident occurred late in the afternoon of Tuesday, January 1, 2013. As an inner tube holding six people was being towed up the mountain at Woodbury Ski Area, the cable broke. The tube slid back down the tubing ramp and collided with the lift at the base of the slope. Five of the six riders were taken to nearby Waterbury Hospital with injuries. All but two of them were released that day. A nineteen year-old woman remained in intensive care for several days with multiple injuries, while a thirty-eight year-old man continued to receive treatment for a head injury. Other injuries included a foot injury and a concussion. The Connecticut State Police was investigating the accident to determine if any criminal charges were warranted, along with the Woodbury fire marshal and the state’s Bureau of Elevators.
A loud car radio reportedly contributed to a fatal collision between an automobile and a train on the Danbury line, by rendering the driver unable to hear the warning bells. One passenger died in the collision, and the driver died several days later. Two more passengers suffered injuries. The rail crossing where the crash occurred has been the site of multiple collisions. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) decided to expedite the installation of gates at the crossing as a result of the crash.
At about 1:20 p.m. on December 30, 2012, a Metro North train collided with a vehicle at the Long Ridge Road crossing in Redding, Connecticut. The vehicle, a Subaru Outback, was headed south on Long Ridge Road. The engineer of the train was seated on the right-hand side of the locomotive, and the car was approaching from his left, out of his line of sight. He therefore never saw the car coming and did not apply the brakes. An event recorder on the train showed that it was traveling at about the speed limit of fifty miles per hour.
The train collided with the Outback as it was crossing the tracks. It pushed the car about fifty yards until the car rolled down an embankment. The train stopped after another two hundred yards, and its two occupants, the engineer and a conductor, reportedly went to the wrecked vehicle on foot. The engineer said that the car’s radio was playing “very loud” when he arrived. All four occupants of the vehicle were taken to Danbury hospital. A twenty-one year-old passenger was pronounced dead that day, and the nineteen year-old driver died in the hospital on January 4, 2013.
The Supreme Court of Montana ruled that a mother’s lawsuit may proceed against the city government over an injury her daughter suffered on a public playground. The mother, suing on behalf of her minor daughter, argued that the city breached a duty to maintain safe premises by failing to provide material of a safe enough depth to protect children from injury during falls. The ruling in Gatlin-Johnson v. City of Miles City, No. D.A. 12-0129, slip op. (Mont., Dec. 21, 2012) overturned a lower court’s order dismissing the lawsuit after finding that the city did not owe a duty of care to the injured child.
Tiffany Gatlin took her eight year-old daughter, Alyssa Gatlin-Johnson, to Riverside Park in Miles City, Montana in July 2002. The city owned and operated the park, and it designed a playground area there and installed and maintained playground equipment. Alyssa fell from a slide and suffered a serious head injury. The previous year, Gatlin discovered, the city had conducted a review of maintenance and safety in its park system. A review committee recommended surface protection around the playground equipment as a means of preventing injuries. Additionally, the city’s insurer recommended establishing “fall zones” underneath playground equipment, based on guidelines promulgated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. These fall zones would have surfacing designed to minimize injuries by providing surface material to cushion falling children. At the time of the accident, the city was using bark chips in the fall zone of the slide.
Two separate gas-related explosions in Connecticut homes have left five people injured and caused the death of one person. An explosion in New Milford in late August killed one person and injured two. Three people were injured in an explosion in Shelton in mid-September. Both explosions appear to have resulted from gas leaks. Natural gas explosions can be devastating, with damages ranging from the severe destruction of these two to the catastrophic destruction of the Kleen Energy Systems plant explosion in Middletown in 2010.
The New Milford explosion occurred during the evening of August 29, 2012. A homeowner and his friend were reportedly attempting to repair a gas leak in the house. The friend’s nine year-old son was also present at the house. The homeowner had reportedly sent his two children to a neighbor’s house after he smelled gas. The friend, a licensed plumber, was killed in the explosion. The homeowner and the friend’s child suffered severe burns and were rushed to the hospital. The house was essentially leveled, with only the chimney remaining. People reported hearing the explosion miles away.
The explosion in Shelton happened in the afternoon of September 10. Two employees of Pioneer Gas & Appliance Company made a routine stop to switch a homeowner’s gas service from a different provider. As the two workers attempted to light the water heater’s pilot light, something triggered an explosion that was felt throughout the neighborhood. The two gas company employees and the homeowner suffered serious burns. As with the New Milford case, members of the homeowner’s family were instructed to vacate the house when the employees smelled gas. Investigators suspect a gas leak caused the explosion.
A teenage hiker died last Sunday in a tragic fall at Sleeping Giant, a ridge located in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park. Tobias Engel, an 18 year-old high school senior, was hiking alone when he fell about two hundred feet off of a cliff at around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 5. Other hikers saw him fall, and were able to direct the Hamden Fire Department to Engel’s location when they arrived on the scene at 5:00 p.m. Emergency responders used an ATV to get him out of the park. Engel was reportedly conscious when they found him. They rushed him to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he died later that day.
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which administers the park where the fall occurred, issued a statement indicating that the incident was likely a case of slip and fall. The trail goes very close to the edge of the ridge in the area where Engel fell, a spokesperson said. The case remains under investigation to determine whether the state should alter any of the safeguards or procedures in the park. According to the Hartford Courant, five “cliff rescues” have occurred at Connecticut state parks since 2008, as well as three cases of injured hikers needing help on wooded park trails.
Sleeping Giant is a traprock mountain in southeastern Connecticut, part of the Metacomet Ridge that runs north-south across the state. Its highest point is 739 feet above sea level, and it is a prominent feature of the landscape. It is named because of its resemblance to a reclining human figure. The mountain itself extends for about two miles. The area where Engel fell is known as the “chin.”
Cases involving falls and other injuries by hikers bring up questions of premises liability, which is the legal doctrine that holds an owner or manager of property liable for injuries caused by unsafe or dangerous conditions on that property. At the same time, such cases also involve the question of comparative negligence, which is a legal defense to liability in some cases. A defendant can argue that an injured person is at least partly at fault for their injuries, and this argument can apply in the case of risky activities with known dangers. If an injured person is found to be partly at fault, the damage award against the defendant would be reduced by the plaintiff’s share of liability. A poll conducted by the North Branford Patch, while not scientific at all, demonstrates the popular notion that people take on at least some of the responsibility in activities such as these.
Two volunteer firefighters in Portland, Connecticut suffered serious injuries last year while responding to a fire at a duplex home. A backhoe operator clearing snow from the home’s driveway on Saturday, January 29, 2011, accidentally ruptured the underground propane tank located behind the house. Propane vented out, and the cold air turned it to a quickly-spreading vapor. The operator alerted residents and left the area. A neighbor called 911, and police and firefighters rushed in to evacuate remaining residents.
Lieutenant Todd Ghent and firefighter Tim Goff arrived at the scene with a portable gas meter. Intending to measure the level of gas in the backyard, they headed toward the tank. The meter reportedly showed a sudden spike in the gas level. Ghent ordered Goff away from the area. An open garage door had allowed gas to pool, since propane is heavier than the surrounding air. A still-unexplained spark ignited the gas before they could get away. A fireball engulfed the two men. As the Middletown Press noted at the time, firefighters then had to deal with two injured colleagues and a house fire. Fire units from surrounding towns responded to help with the fire.
Ghent was taken to Hartford Hospital with second- and third-degree burns to his head, face, and neck, and he was transferred to a burn unit for intensive treatment. He spent three days in the burn unit and was then confined to his house for three weeks. Goff was treated at Middlesex Hospital for burns on his hands and reportedly released the following day. Firefighters extinguished the fire, but the house was effectively destroyed.
A year later, the Hartford Courant interviewed Ghent about his ordeal. He credits instinct for his split-second decision to hold his breath when the propane exploded. The air surrounding the explosion would have been heated to almost 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Had he inhaled, the air would have seared his lungs and killed him. Instead, he dropped to the ground and somehow managed to find his way to a snow bank to put out the fire on his head.
A freak accident on an elevator in a Midtown Manhattan office building has taken the life of a 41 year-old woman and shocked an entire city. Suzanne Hart died on the morning of December 14, 2011 as she stepped onto the elevator on the way to her job at an advertising firm. With the elevator doors still open, the car suddenly lurched up while she was halfway in. The car stopped between the first and second floors, trapping her between the elevator and the wall and crushing her to death. It took rescue workers an hour to get two other passengers, who suffered no physical injuries, out of the elevator. Hart was pronounced dead at the scene, but her body could not be retrieved until much later in the day.
Elevator accidents are rare but provocative occurrences. New York City boasts more than 60,000 elevators, according to the New York Times, and they are an essential feature of the city’s many tall buildings. There were 53 accidents involving elevators in 2011 with three fatalities. The most recent death in an elevator accident prior to this one occurred in September, when a worker for elevator maintenance company Transel Elevator, Inc. fell down an elevator shaft at a building in the Garment District.
Elevators are such a common part of everyday city life that accidents such as these are difficult to imagine, seeming more like something out of a horror movie. In reality, elevators are just one more type of mechanical device on which we rely, but which need regular inspection and maintenance. Much like a car or an airplane, any number of failures could lead to tragedy. A famous story that has already achieved urban legend status illustrates the risks and liabilities. A doctor in Houston, Texas was killed in 2003 when a malfunction caused the elevator doors to close as he entered the car. He was trapped between the doors as the car quickly rose and partially decapitated him. Investigators concluded that a maintenance worker wired the car incorrectly, directly leading to the accident. The doctor’s family sued the elevator company for wrongful death and settled in 2004.
Property owners, landlords, and the maintenance companies they employ have a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises, and they could be liable for injuries or deaths that occur if they breach this duty. The investigation into the accident that caused Hart’s death is still ongoing, but preliminary reports have indicated that Transel Elevator, the same company that lost an employee in the September accident, was performing electrical maintenance on the elevator car hours before the accident. This is reportedly the focus of the investigation by the city’s Department of Buildings. Whatever the specific cause of the accident, it is remarkable because of the seemingly simultaneous failure of all the elevator’s safety mechanisms, which are supposed to prevent movement of the car while the doors are open.