We’re coming up on one of the most fun but also most dangerous weekends of the year. It’s the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, if you prefer.
I have heard time and time again stories of people losing fingers or ears or eyes or suffering serious burns all from misuse of fireworks. I know that my dad and his brother used to have “bottle rocket wars” where they would shoot bottle rockets directly at each other. Actions like that make me wonder what would happen if a “bottle rocket warrior” tried to take the other one to court for shooting out their eye.
The general rule is that we all have to use reasonable care not to injure someone else through our actions. That means that we have to behave as a reasonable person would. Many people mistakenly believe that a “reasonable” person is an “average” person, but that’s not right. A reasonable person is the biggest goody-two-shoes you’ve ever met. They always wear their seatbelt; they always drive the speed limit; they never cross a street without looking both ways; they always wear sunblock when they’ll be outside; they are constantly paying attention to their surroundings… and they DEFINITELY don’t shoot bottle rockets at people. So even though your average person growing up in the south may have participated in a bottle rocket war, the reasonable person definitely would not.
So we’ve established that the shooter was negligent, case over right?Well, not quite. You see, in Arkansas we have what is called the modified comparative fault rule. For us, if the plaintiff (the person who had their eye hit by the bottle rocket in our case) is 50 percent or more at fault, then they cannot recover against the defendant. This is true even though the defendant was negligent. Because of this rule, the jury would have to look at all the facts available to determine a percentage of fault for each of the bottle rocket warriors. These facts could be anything from eye protection being available, to the size of the bottle rockets, to the distance that the boys stayed apart from one another.
After that, and if the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault, the bottle rocket warrior that had their eye shot out could recover the percentage of their damages that the defendant was responsible for. For example, if the jury found the defendant to be 55 percent at fault, the plaintiff to be 45 percent at fault, and the total damages to be $100,000, then the plaintiff could get $55,000 from the defendant to help cover some of his damages.