Episode 28: Fireworks

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On the latest episode of Peter’s Proffer, the Tragos team kick off the July 4th holiday by talking about fireworks safety – including Florida law, which fireworks are legal vs. illegal, explosive mishaps, and much more…

[00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of Peter’s proffer here in the courtroom of current events. We’ve got a holiday themed episode today with the 4th of July coming up so we’re happy you guys are listening with us if you have any comments hit us up at Tragos law on all social media or e-mail me at [email protected] And we are also going to start looking out for the five star reviews on iTunes. So if you feel so inclined, go ahead leave us a review, leave us a comment on iTunes. All right. Thanks for listening.

[00:00:42] All right with 4th of July coming up we thought it would be on brand and on topic to do a podcast on fireworks. We’re going to talk about what the law in Florida actually says, what fireworks are legal which ones are illegal. How all these people are shooting off fireworks all the time. And what type of legal claims can come out of firework mishaps. So we’re going to start with what the law is in Florida and what it regulates or prohibits as far as fireworks are concerned. And right now the law in Florida prohibits any fireworks that fly through the air or explode. Some examples of those fireworks are roman candles, bottle rockets, mortars, and those types of fireworks that are outlawed in Florida for recreational use. Is there any other ones that you guys have seen that are that are actually named and outlawed in Florida.

[00:01:42] Well there are artillery shells [that] are outlawed. Artificial satellites, skyrockets. All of these things that again, fall within your definition of "it can go in the air and it can explode".

[00:01:54] OK. So the law specifically states that they are prohibited for recreational use. So let’s first start out by talking about what is not prohibited for recreational use. What fireworks are allowed for recreational use.

[00:02:11] Well one of the most common are sparklers. Sparklers burn at 2000 degrees. Yet there are legal and we can have you can play with them. There’s all snakes that you light up and twirl around. Those are legal. Things that sit on the ground and kind of sparkle when you light them up. They’re illegal. I mean they’re legal excuse me so those things are the legal type of things that we see them and they’re very common.

[00:02:34] So basically the ones that come in the little packages that you can just put on the ground and they just burn up on your street and they just stop burning eventually.

[00:02:41] Sure. As long as it’s not in the air going "boom", you should be ok.

[00:02:45] You buy him at Publix all the time, they’ve got those prepackaged items. Those are the things we’re talking about.

[00:02:50] OK. And then also obviously the pop things that you just throw on the ground and pop those don’t even burn . OK. So the language like I’ve been saying specifically says "for recreational use". Why is that so important when we’re looking at the ones that fly in the air and explode?

[00:03:06] You’re allowed to use fireworks to scare birds from farms for agricultural purposes. Apparently some fish hatcheries use them to keep wild animals away. And those are authorized legitimate uses. But as long as you’re not having fun with them you’re OK.

[00:03:23] Right. And so you can’t use bottle rockets and Roman candles and whatever for that purpose legally in Florida. OK. So let’s next talk about why fireworks are regulated like this.

[00:03:38] Well the danger obviously people are killed by fireworks. I mean there was a man in Chicago on the 4th of July instead of the rocket going up 50 feet like it was supposed to, went sideways, hit the guy and he died. There are between 10 to 12,000 emergency room visits every 4th of July in the last couple of years because of injuries from fireworks and the large [that’s nationwide] and the largest group are five to nine year olds.

[00:04:07] So I mean we’ve all heard stories of people I mean even Jason Pierre-Paul who now plays for the Bucs blew off his hand with a fireworks accident a few years ago playing in the NFL. There was also an issue with that we know people that have blown off their faces basically with firework mishaps and things that have hurt have gotten them hurt by misusing them or mishandling them. So I guess just the inherent danger of them for what makes them illegal. Similarly the dynamite is an inherently dangerous thing that you can’t just set off and that’s basically where fireworks are.

[00:04:41] Right. There are regulated fireworks are not the size of dynamite because actually it can’t be more than I think it’s 500 grams of powder in them. But that’s the idea is these things are designed to hurt.

[00:04:54] Right. So that’s why they’re regulated. Obviously it’s safety reasons. And there have been in the past some state representatives in Florida that have tried to legalize fireworks and we’re going to get to the crux of the podcast now which is the law in Florida a lot of people especially some of the representatives think it’s just bogus it’s a joke. It doesn’t actually promote public safety. It basically promotes fraud, because you’re not allowed to use these fireworks for fun. We’ve been over that. So then how is it that every 4th of July we see people packing their trucks doing it in their backyards shooting it off into the water doing these huge fireworks shows when they’re not a regulated actually person that can do that. How does that happen?

[00:05:39] Well first obviously no one gets arrested for it. It’s just like the basketball pools.

[00:05:44] But why don’t they…I don’t think it’s the same. I don’t think it’s the same… No. Because when you do a basketball pool you’re not signing a waiver saying you’re doing something else.

[00:05:51] But you are doing something illegal and the police are ignoring it.

[00:05:54] OK but that’s just now you’re signing a waiver.. Let me get into the waiver then.

[00:05:59] OK. So people go to these fireworks stores and the fireworks stores sell them hundreds or thousands of dollars of the fireworks and they sign a waiver that says I’m only going to use these for agricultural purposes and not for recreational purposes.

[00:06:12] The waver for those not for the person that is buying the fireworks.. it’s for the store… right is for the person as well. No, I don’t think so. I think it’s for the store. In other words, the people selling the fireworks, when it all comes down to it, want to be able to show the piece of paper that says I sold this guy fireworks, but he said that he was going to use them for agriculture.

[00:06:29] Well that’s not what the the state reps on the floor with their argument say. They say that the people that are actually buying the fireworks are committing fraud by signing these as well.

[00:06:38] Well it’s a misdemeanor because they’re lying on the paper.

[00:06:41] Right. Exactly. So that’s the point, all these people are quote unquote protecting themselves by signing this stupid waiver. But in reality because Florida has a legal purpose for fireworks, these fireworks dealers and people that want to buy fireworks are using that as a loophole to buy the fireworks for recreational purposes and just sign that it’s for agricultural protection.

[00:06:59] Have you ever heard of anyone ever getting arrested for falsely signing an agricultural waiver to get fireeorks.

[00:07:05] No but I feel like I do. I feel like I have heard people getting arrested for buying some of the really serious fireworks that fly up in the air and explode.

[00:07:13] The police do not have the time or the manpower to enforce on the 4th of July. All the illegal fireworks are that are exploded.

[00:07:20] No I’m not saying all of them but I have. I feel like I could be wrong but I feel like I have heard it from some of the really huge rockets that shoot up and explode. But can people get an actual legitimate license to put on a fireworks show?

[00:07:34] Oh certainly we see it in all the cities with the cities pay 40 or $50,000.

[00:07:37] Is it just the city or can private companies as well get these licenses?

[00:07:40] I think you have to show that you have to have a certain ability or expertise. In order just like guns automatic weapons, you have to prove that you have some kind of a need or expertise for the automatic weapon.

[00:07:51] So I also think that it’s interesting when you look at these fraudulent transactions basically, where these companies are these little tents basically are selling these fireworks and they’re saying they’re doing it for agricultural purposes. But if you look at all the pictures and all the displays and all the way that they have it’s set up it’s all boom pretty lights in the sky, total fireworks show for 4th July, not pictures of, you know, birds flying away or things scattering from fish fish hatcheries or things like that which is you know obviously not what they’re selling them for. So what are some reasons why Florida doesn’t actually uphold this law or implement this law?

[00:08:34] Manpower the sheriff’s office doesn’t have enough manpower to enforce all this. And.. and nobody really cares.

[00:08:41] And it’s promoting what the public wants to do. I mean that’s also what it’s doing is everybody agrees across the board that they want to shoot fireworks often see fireworks shows on the 4th July.

[00:08:52] Well everybody wants to do basketball pools in their in their offices too. And that’s why it’s ignored, because nobody really cares nobody really gets upset by the fact that they’re shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July.

[00:09:03] But you’d agree there’s a huge difference between the basketball pools and fireworks.

[00:09:07] No.

[00:09:08] OK, do 12,000 people go to the hospital every year doing basketball pools?

[00:09:12] No, but how much, how many people lose a lot of money in those basketball pools?

[00:09:14] Do they go to the hospitals?

[00:09:16] No they don’t go to the hospital.

[00:09:17] That’s my point there’s a public safety argument for fireworks. I don’t think it’s anywhere near comparable to the basketball pools that people are doing at their offices where people bet however much money, even if it’s a detrimental amount of money, they’re still not blowing off their hand or dying because of the basketball pools. And speaking of the 12,000 people that go to hospitals every year because of fireworks injuries. Let’s talk a little bit about what type of legal claims can come from firework injuries or misuse of fireworks. I think you’ve already talked about some misdemeanor criminal charges that can come from you know sign the fraudulent documents or lying on those documents. But from a civil standpoint what could be looking at if they were injured by a fireworks accident?

[00:09:59] All right. So you have the same possible courses of action that you would have if it was a car accident or someone did something intentionally wrong to you. You can file a claim of negligence against whoever is putting off the fireworks, if you’re injured because of them. You have the right to file a lawsuit against the homeowner that is promoting the fireworks display. You could potentially have a cause of action against the fireworks manufacturer if you can prove that there is a defect. The only concern I would have in that argument is, it is an inherently dangerous substance. I’m not sure how you prove that you know the fireworks blew up before I got a chance to get it out of my hand.

[00:10:41] I think you can and I think you definitely can. And that’s a products liability claim. There’s something wrong with the product when it gets to you and that could just be it really was built wrong and it shot out the wrong way. Or short fuse is actually common, actually has happened that there is an industry standard for so long the fuse should burn before it explodes. You have to prove obviously it didn’t happen in shipping and you didn’t do anything to alter the fuse and all that stuff as well. But yes. So some of the big ones are just like negligence claims meaning somebody that put on this type of party to watch a fireworks show and you know get hit in the face of the firework because the guy setting them off doesn’t know what he’s doing.

[00:11:15] Well lends to something else. We’re all talking about a nice family display about the neighborhood getting together fireworks. But then there’s the nefarious side of it.. The guys and gals that go out there and get super drunk and all of a sudden the next door neighbor shooting the fireworks at you intentionally.

[00:11:32] Right. And then you also have you know the ones that planned it and have a really nice display and everything’s put up but then you also have the the events that people charge for you to come in and watch their firework show. Even like in neighborhoods. I’ve been to one of those before where they actually charge you five bucks or whatever to come sit on their balcony and watch their firework show because they just spent ten grand on fireworks.

[00:11:54] And now they’re making you a business invitee.

[00:11:55] Exactly. So then the elements change, and if you’re injured there there’s even more that you could go after, and if they are putting on that kind of party they should have some kind of extra insurance for that party for you to potentially go after if you are injured by a fire.

[00:12:08] And we know they don’t. Some do, depending on how big the show is. Yeah. Well some of them have waivers for you to sign as well.

[00:12:15] Which we’re not sure those waivers would be good or not.

[00:12:17] Exactly. There are those waivers are usually pretty easily defeated in lawsuits if you just sign some blind waiver when you walk in the door.

[00:12:25] Also, don’t forget. I don’t want to minimize the physical, but there’s property damage issues as well that come up a lot by fires being started those kind of things from the fireworks.

[00:12:33] One time I was at this fireworks party and they one of the fireworks got lit in the van basically that had all the fireworks in them but it was a van with.. It wasn’t like… It was like a trailer connected to the van. And all of the fireworks went off at once so it was like one big grand finale. But it burned up the whole trailer basically, but none of us knew that we’re watching… We were like wow this is a really long grand finale but what about literally and boom it just was a huge firework show and it just destroyed the company’s trailer and van. And yeah I think that that property damages you should the same thing. So you can use your homeowner’s insurance to pay for your property damage and you can go after the homeowner’s insurance of the neighbor or whoever shot off the fireworks if somebody else’s fireworks damage your property damage, but something that’s interesting about that that I think about as with the illegality of fireworks I bet the homeowner’s insurance would try to disclaim any claims because you were doing illegal activity on the property.

[00:13:25] Sure and I bet you there is a portion of your insurance policy that says they’re not responsible for access that are caught with explosives. I’m sure yeah and they’ll probably mention dynamite or maybe even fireworks. And I think that will depend obviously if you have a little kid that gets hurt from a fireworks accident they’re more likely to pay on that than if you just have property damage because you were setting off fireworks in your own backyard. So be cognizant of this stuff that I know it’s kind of tongue in cheek and not a big deal in Florida. You’re not going to get arrested for it and you’re signing this fraudulent document but there are potential repercussions that could come with either getting a misdemeanor, getting arrested for or firing off these fireworks getting injured or creating property damage that your insurance is not going to pay for because it is technically unlawful for you to do any of this in Florida.

[00:14:13] So we just wanted to give the warning out. Everybody be safe with the 4th of July coming up. Thanks for listening in with us and if you have any questions or comments or want us to hit any other topics just hit us up on all social media #tragoslaw and our website is Tragoslaw.com. Thanks a lot.

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