Schemery Zicolello

Fan hit by lightning -- should stadium have done more?

Unpredictable situations and conditions constantly occur, and frequently accidents happen. But what happens when property owners know about hazardous conditions and fail to adequately warn people about them?

Under Pennsylvania premises liability laws, property owners are responsible for injuries that happen because of a dangerous property condition if they are negligent, or careless, in repairing the condition or warning people about the condition. Negligent property owners are financially responsible for injuries that occur because of their negligence. Those hurt by hazardous conditions can recover for physical and emotional damage caused by the accident.

Questions are now arising about how much warning a Pennsylvania stadium should have given NASCAR fans about poor weather conditions. On Aug. 5, NASCAR was holding a race at Poncono Raceway. Weather conditions were deteriorating and Poncono claims it sent warnings to fans about the dangerous weather via the sound system and through social media.

However, a bolt of lightning struck the parking lot of the stadium where many fans were congregated and another possibly struck inside the stadium a short time later. One fan was killed immediately. Eight other fans were injured in the parking lot. A ninth fan was injured from the second strike.

These types of stadiums are very large and crowded -- Poncono has a 2.5 mile long track. Furthermore, unlike football and other outdoor stadiums, raceways do not have concourses where fans can go to get away from dangerous weather conditions. Finally, NASCAR tends to continue races even in bad weather. Despite these conditions, Poncono was still responsible for warning its patrons.

While Poncono claims it sent out warnings, many fans have said they did not hear them. If this is true, and Poncono's warnings were inadequate, then the raceway could be responsible for the injuries caused by the lightning. Poncono and other sporting venues need to do all they can to keep people safe.

Source: NBC Sports, "Fan Hit By Lightning Goes From Critical To Stable," Dan Gelston, Aug. 6, 2012

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