A 5-year-old boy is recovering from second- and third-degree burns after falling into a fire ring near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach. According to a report in The Orange County Register, the incident occurred the evening of April 20, 2014. The boy was transported to the hospital with burn injuries on both feet and one of his arms. He suffered serious injuries, but is expected to survive, officials say. Authorities are still looking into how the child ended up in the fire ring. He is said to be recovering in an area burn center.
The Danger of Beach Fire Pits
Beach fire pits can be a lot of fun for campers. But over the years, our beaches have also seen serious fire pit accidents, especially those involving young children. Fire pits can smolder for up to 24 hours in spite of being covered with sand. This may lock in the heat even if the flames are out. UC Irvine Medical Center, which has Orange County’s only American College of Surgeons-verified burn center, typically treats two dozen people hurt by fire pits and barbecues each summer. In 2009, the center treated 23 such patients including 17 children.
Issue of Government Liability
Based on this news report, it is unclear as to how or why the child fell into the pit. Was the pit covered? Was the fire ring in disrepair or broken? Did that cause the child to trip and fall into the fire pit? These are some of the questions that must be asked and answered in order to determine precisely what occurred here.
Government liability is always a possibility in these types of cases. Both Newport Beach and neighbor, Huntington Beach, have been sued by parents of children who have suffered serious injuries in fire pit accidents on the beach. Last year, Jason Richardson filed a lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach alleging that the city is responsible for his son Seth’s injuries. They boy, who was 6 at the time of the incident, was flying a kite near his father on the beach when he fell backwards into the fire pit, which still had a smoldering fire in it. That lawsuit alleged that the fire pit was broken and hazardous.
Under California law, a governmental entity can be held liable for dangerous condition of public property. In such cases, the plaintiff must prove that the property was in dangerous condition; that the hazardous condition caused the victim’s injuries and that the governmental entity knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and should have fixed it. Lawsuits against governmental agencies can be extremely challenging. An experienced Newport Beach personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled such claims against governmental entities will be able to assist victims and their families pursue their rights. It is also important to remember that any personal injury claim against a governmental agency must be filed within six months of the incident.