Fireworks Displays — Abnormally Dangerous Activity ? ? ?

K.L. Kosanke

Most of the fireworks display industry is aware of the ruling of the Washington state supreme court, which declared the conducting of fireworks displays to be an abnormally dangerous activity.[1] In part, that ruling was based on their considered opinion that, by their very nature, fireworks displays could not be performed safely. One to be an abnormally dangerous activity is that in the event of an accident, negligence is no longer a consideration regarding liability. In legal parlance this is referred to as “strict liability”. Under normal liability, in order to win a judgment it must be shown that a defendant was negligent (i.e., failed to conduct himself as a “reasonable” person would have under the same circumstances). Thus, if a display operator and crew always do what reasonable persons would, they would not be negligent and would be victorious if sued. (At least this is true in theory.) However, under strict liability, about all that a plaintiff needs to prove in court to win a judgment is that they were injured. Obviously, this is a far easier task, and a situation likely to have ramifications affecting insurance rates and a sponsor’s willingness to put on displays.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 3, (1993-1994), pp 16-19

© Journal of Pyrotechnics and CarnDu Ltd

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