“The Show Must Go On.” A Circus Operator’s Decision Costs Two Spectators Their Lives

Despite the powerful storms that rolled through the Northeast Monday and the National Weather Service’s warnings of severe winds and thunderstorms, a circus operator at Walker Brothers International Circus proceeded to host a show at the Lancaster Fairgrounds, in New Hampshire. The decision resulted in more than 30 people being injured and two spectators being killed, when 60 mph winds caused the main tent to collapse.

New Hampshire Fire Marshal Bill Degnan is still scratching his head as to why the operator let the show go on. According to Dengan, the operator had a duty to monitor the weather conditions; the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 5:23 p.m. Monday and the show began seven minutes later, with the storm passing through at 5:46 p.m. while more than 100 people were inside the tent.

The victims were identified as Robert Young, 41, and his daughter Annabelle, 8. Degnan said preliminary autopsy showed blunt force trauma as the cause of their fatal injuries. Witness Heidi Medeiros, who was attending the show with her 3-year-old son, said she saw a pole lift out of the ground and then slam in to the bleachers where she and her son had been sitting.

According to reports by WCVB, the company, Walker Brothers International Circus, has been cooperating with investigators. Degnan said that the circus operator had not filed a “place of assembly permit” with the town of Lancaster and that state law would need to be examined further to decide whether a criminal violation would apply. The circus tent had also not been properly inspected by town officials and it was unclear to Degnan whether local officials knew or should have known there was a show taking place inside the tent.

“For circus-type events, state law requires any event in a tent with more than 50 people in attendance to hold a license from town or city officials, which can include the fire department or selectmen. State law also says the licensing agency “shall inspect, or cause to be inspected” each place of assembly. Any owner or operator of a circus or carnival event must present city officials with a certificate of flame proofing for any tent or canvas. The purpose of the inspection is to examine issues like aisle space, prevention of overcrowding and the maintenance of exits, among other things.” (WCVB.com)

The circus’s president, John Caudill Jr., reportedly has a history of violations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was fined more than $25,000 for a series of violations in 2001 while operating without an Animal Welfare Act license. The company has been repeatedly cited for animal cruelty and practices that endanger both workers and spectators.

Premises Liability Cases

When incidents like this occur, the first questions people usually ask are “Why did this happen?” and “Who is responsible?” People are also concerned about how the incident could have been prevented and how future similar incidents could be prevented

Owners and managing companies of these large events, like a circus, are typically aware of the types of risks posed to individuals who visit their establishments, and usually take preventative measures to ensure that a catastrophe, like this type of incident, does not occur. In this case, however, there was blatant negligence on behalf of the circus operator—from failing to file correct permits, to failing to heed warnings of an eminent storm.

Personal injury and negligence claims may be filed if an injured party can prove that the owners of an entertainment venue did not take adequate measures to keep them safe. In the above cases, investigators will look to see whether it was a preventative safety measure that was not in effect that could have caused the incident.

If you or a loved one was injured while attending an event at an entertainment arena, sports stadium, or any other venue, call one of the experienced Boston Premises Liability Attorneys at the law offices of Altman & Altman. Upon thorough review of your case, our lawyers can determine whether you have grounds to file a claim against an owner of a venue for negligence and failing to protect your safety. Our team of seasoned attorneys has nearly 50 years of experience handling premises liability cases, and we have successfully recovered millions in compensation for our clients. All initial consultations are free and our lawyers are available around the clock to answer any questions you may have regarding your case.


Read the original article posted by WCVB.com here.

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