Some people love them, others are terrified by them. Either way, lightning storms are a fact of life in Florida, and lightning strikes can cause serious injury or even death. While Mother Nature can't be brought into civil court, sometimes an individual or entity contributed to a lightning injury or death. Our law firm can help victims hold such entities legally responsible for their role in these tragedies.
Officials are blaming a lightning strike for a fire that destroyed part of a double-wide house trailer located on the 200 block of Renoir Road, DeFuniak Springs. As reported by Northwest Florida Daily News, the fire began around 7:30 P.M. on Friday night when lightning struck close to the breaker box in the trailer's utility room. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the resulting blaze. Firefighters battled the flames for three hours and largely contained it to the kitchen and utility rooms.
At first glance, people might assume that those injured by lightning lack legal recourse. Sometimes that may be true, but not always. In some cases, a person/group neglected to fulfill a duty to protect the victim or otherwise contributed to the likelihood of a lightning injury. A civil claim may be appropriate under those circumstances, for example:
On October 2012, an 11 year old boy was struck by lightning during a school football practice in Fort Meyers, Florida. He passed away a few days later and his parents sued the school and the sponsoring church for negligence. As the Southern Baptist Press reported, the suit settled for an undisclosed amount with the family stating that part of the settlement money would go towards preventing future tragedies including through the use of Early Warning Lightning Detection Equipment.
On September 2001, a lifeguard died one day before his 21st birthday. Lightning struck him while he was standing in shallow water and evacuating water park patrons. The Tampa Tribune reported that the lifeguard's family sued the waterpark for negligence claiming the failure to follow appropriate procedure led to their son's death and alleging that the park delayed evacuations despite warning from lightning detection alarms. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the park for serious safety violations that exposed employees to the hazard of lightning strikes.
In July 2011, two Boy Scouts were hit by lightning in Utah, killing one and injuring the other. As detailed by the Deseret News, their families filed suit in September 2012 sued saying Scout leaders failed to consider safety risks and had not been properly trained to recognize and respond to weather emergencies. They also alleged the campsite was in an unduly dangerous location and that the leaders exposed the troop to danger by seeking shelter from the storm on a ridge instead of in the mess hall that was only 100 feet away.
In Texas, a man died after lightning sparked an explosion in his home in August 2012. According to NBC News, the fire marshal determined that the strike caused holes to form in pipes that supplied gas to the home's appliances. The family sued the piping company, suggesting they knew the product was unsafe and that experts had long cautioned it posed a danger when lightning struck nearby.
We did not find reports on how many of the listed lawsuits were resolved, perhaps because they involved confidential settlements. Still, the number of cases and the fact that most appear to have advanced beyond initial pleadings supports the idea that people and entities can be held responsible for contributing to the danger of a lightning strike.
According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, Florida saw 126 lightning strike fatalities between 1999 and 2003, substantially more than any other state (Texas was second with 52 deaths). If a lightning strike claimed the life of a loved one or if you were injured by lightning and a negligent individual or group contributed to the tragedy, you many have a legal claim. Our attorney understands all aspects of Florida injury law. Call to arrange a free consultation to discuss your unique case and your legal rights.