Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Court to decide liability in fireworks death

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A woman whose husband was killed by an exploding shell during a July 4 fireworks display has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to hold their suburban community responsible.

        At issue is whether a city that sponsors a fireworks display on its land is immune from lawsuits because it is performing a proprietary or governmental duty by promoting patriotism.

        Donald Ryll, 37, was sitting next to his wife, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and their 5-year-old daughter at the show in 1996 when a shell exploded in a launch tube and sprayed a spectator area with shrapnel. An employee of the fireworks company was injured and died eight months later. A child and another worker also were hurt.

        “Reynoldsburg said, "Here is our property, but we are going to create a fireworks exhibition without any inspection and tell you where to sit .... even though that is illegal,” said Keith Karr, representing Mr. Ryll's wife, Deborah.

        “The national anthem says, "And the rockets red glare ... bombs bursting in air,'” said Alan Sheappard, a lawyer representing Reynoldsburg. “Fireworks displays are an attempt to capture that feeling and inspire patriotism.”

        Mr. Sheappard also argued during a hearing last week that Reynoldsburg should not be liable because state law says that people making their land open for recreational purposes do not owe a duty to those who use the land to prevent them from being injured.


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