McDowell & Osburn recently settled a case involving a two-year old child with severe burns to both feet. The two-year old was playing in the back yard of the duplex where his family rented an apartment. His mother’s boyfriend was watching him and his baby brother. When the boyfriend checked on the baby, the two-year old toddler ran over to investigate the remains of a bonfire in the back yard. The fire looked like it was fully extinguished and was not apparently hot. The toddler walked into the ashes and was seen by the neighbor’s relative and pulled out. Unfortunately, there were hot coals under the ashes and the toddler suffered severe burns to the bottoms of both feet. The toddler had toes amputated, skin graft surgeries and remains at risk of needing one or both feet amputated. Because of the burns, the toddler (now in elementary school) must wear special footwear and has trouble walking.
The neighbor had held a large party in the back yard of the duplex the night before the toddler was burned. He was also the manager/owner of a nearby bar. He advertised the party at his bar and had entertainment at the party that would normally have taken place at the bar. Over 100 people, many of whom were regular bar patrons, attended the cook-out/party. The neighbor/bar-manager referred to the party as his annual thank you to his bar customers and the local community. The bonfire burned until after midnight. Obviously, the host of the party never fully extinguished the fire as required by law.
The owner of the duplex who rented the apartments to the bar manager and the toddler’s family knew about the annual parties and bonfires. The owner did nothing to check on the party or the fire arrangements.
Suit was brought on behalf of the child against the neighbor, the bar and the owner. The case settled on a confidential basis favorably for the child that included the creation of a trust to help fund future medical needs for the child.