Discharging Illegal Fireworks, Liability for Injuries

Unfortunately, every Fourth-of-July we hear about accidents involving fireworks, and this year was no different. In Guilford, CT a man lost two fingers and a thumb as a result of illegal fireworks, according to police. A question was posed to me this week about liability involving fireworks in Connecticut. I was asked: "who would be responsible for injuries resulting from the illegal discharge of fireworks?"

The Courts in Connecticut recognize the doctrine of strict liability for dangerous activities and imposes it in limited circumstances. In strict liability cases, just as in negligence, a defendant's activity must be the proximate cause, or the actual cause that is a substantial factor in the claimed harm, thereby causing the injury.

In Connecticut, strict liability was originally reserved for ultra-hazardous activities such as blasting and explosives. This category was later extended to pile driving and experiments involving highly volatile chemicals. In 2000, the case of Lipka v. DiLungo extended strict liability to the illegal discharge of fireworks.

In a strict liability case, the Plaintiff is not required to establish that his loss was caused by the Defendant's negligence. It is sufficient to merely show that the Defendant engaged in an ultra-hazardous activity that caused the Plaintiff's loss.

The Connecticut Supreme Court in Caporale v. C. W. Blakeslee & Sons, Inc. stated that in order to impose liability without fault, the following factors had to be present:

  1. An instrumentality capable of producing harm;
  2. Circumstances and conditions in its use which, irrespective of lawful purpose or due care, involve a risk of probable injury to such a degree that the activity fairly can be said to be intrinsically dangerous to the person or property of others; and
  3. A causal relation between the activity and the injury for which damages are claimed.

So, if someone is injured through the illegal discharge of fireworks then liability would attach to the Defendant by virtue of strict liability.