Appellate Court Burns Man Burned at Burning Man

Anthony Beninati was attending the iconic Burning Man Festival, when he fell into the fire at the annual ritual of actually burning the “Burning Man” was performed. Beninati suffered burns in the incident, hired a lawyer, and sued the Burning Man promoter for personal injury damages, alleging it was negligent in the operation of the festival.

The trial court would have none of it, and dismissed the case on summary judgment. Beninati then appealed. Yesterday, California’s Court of Appeal, First District, affirmed the trial court, holding that the promoter owed no duty of care to Beninati, and that Beninati was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.

The facts are actually pretty interesting. Beninati, who is a college educated man employed in real estate, was attending the festival for the third time. In his deposition, he testified that he attended to get away from his workaholic life, and get together with other people who shared his interests in art and spirituality. He planned on attending with his friend, who died in a motorcycle accident six weeks before the festival. Beninati decided to attend alone, and planned to place a photo of his deceased friend in the bonfire.

That’s when things went wrong.

As the fire died down, and Beninati slowly approached it, stopping at a spot where fire was on both sides of him. He threw his friend’s photo on the fire and watched it burn. He then took a few steps forward and tripped on something “solid,” falling into the fire and badly burning his hands.

The appellate court considered all the facts, then ruled (correctly probably) that Beninati assumed the risks of what he was doing:

Once much of the material had burned, and the conflagration had subsided but was still actively burning, Beninati and others walked into the fire. At that point, the risk of stumbling on buried fire debris, including the cables which necessarily had collapsed along with the sculpture, was an obvious and inherent one. Thus, the risk of falling and being burned by the flames or hot ash was inherent, obvious, and necessary to the event, and Beninati assumed such risk.

To read the entire opinion click here. (.pdf)

The San Diego personal injury lawyers at Walton Law Firm LLP represent individuals injured in all types of accidents, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, construction accident, slip and falls, dog bites, and malpractice matters. Call (790) 607-1325 for a free consultation, or fill out an online contact form.

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