Real life lessons from the litigation of a fireworks case

Fireworks are dangerous as hell; they really are. What makes them worse, is that ordinary users have no way of figuring out whether the ‘good stuff’ they were sold at the store is a legal firework, or is good because it contains an inappropriate amount of explosive composition.

Most fireworks can hurt you, but the government places limits on the amount of pyrotechnic material permitted. This means that many injuries are not as bad as they could be. It certainly doesn’t mean that a legal firework is safe, and Detroiters need look no further than local newsman Dave Rexroth for a reminder of just how dangerous they are (Rexroth lost his eye in a fireworks related injury, for those out of town).

The danger is compounded when the fireworks aren’t legal. It turns out that there is a lot of this going around—my case involved a firework that contained over 200 times the amount of flash composition, the hand injury it inflicted was absolutely catastrophic. Because of that fact, we were able to obtain a very good settlement for a family that could really use it. That said, I don't know many people who would take money for the use of their hand. 

 Inert sky rocket prepared for trial. 

Inert sky rocket prepared for trial. 

Over the course of the case I analyzed a lot of other fireworks injuries and saw a lot of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which collects and analyzes data on fireworks injuries. Here are some lessons that we can all put to use this weekend:

  1. Don’t screw around with the fireworks. Make sure they aren’t directed at or above people. Light them with a BBQ style lighter or a torch designed for the job. Get away.
  2. Whatever you do, don’t take them apart. The stuff inside a firework doesn’t always act like you think it will, and it doesn’t always act the same after exposure to oxygen than it would while enclosed. You’re not a fireworks designer; don’t test out your high school chemistry.
  3. If you do happen to be one of the 12,000 or so people who end up in the ED every year with a fireworks injury and you think you have a lawsuit, it won’t be easy. Even if there was something wrong with your firework, the manufacturer is in China and the importer is often difficult to find. Michigan law makes suing importers and retailers extremely difficult and even if you can, they will blame you and your conduct for your injuries.

So bottom line: Be careful this Fourth of July and have a good—safe—time.