Defective Firework Causes Loss of Eye

Beyer v. Hop Kee Pyrotechnics, Ltd et al. CT-006503-02 (Shelby Co. Cir. Court 2002)

In this action, our client’s left eye was blown out by a defective firework manufactured in China and sold at a fireworks stand in Shelby County, Tennessee. Specifically, our client lit a fuse on a cylindrical “artillery shell” style firework , which was supposed to burn for 5 seconds before discharging flaming projectiles (in order to allow him to move a safe distance away from the firework).  When he lit the firework, however, it immediately exploded  and fired at angle such that a flaming mortar flew directly into his eye, destroying the eye and eye socket. 
Our investigation revealed that the firework had two significant defects. First, it has been equipped with a professional black powder fuse, which caused the unit to discharge in less than one second.  Additionally we discovered that the top lid of the unit was glued too tightly, so that when the projectile hit the lid and it did not penetrate the lid, thus firing at an angle rather than straight into the air (and away from our client).

We sued the manufacturer/importer of the unit (which had an office in Los Angeles) and the retailer.  Initially, the manufacturer/importer filed an answer admitting that it indeed had made and imported the unit. Later, it changed its answer (which the judge permitted) to claim that it had not actually made the firework but, instead, was a mere importer of the firework from another Chinese company.  As a result, before our client could pursue the importer and the retailer – the only defendants that we could realistically have a chance of collecting from – we had to translate our client’s complaint in Chinese and attempt service via international process.  Given that China is not a member of the Hague Convention (which makes service of process easier), we were faced with a service situation plagued with fraud which prevented effective service. 

We convinced our judge that service of process could not be achieved and that even if it could there was no jurisdiction over the newly identified manufacturer.  We were then able to pursue our claims against the importer and retailer. After substantial discovery, we prepared an animated video that showed how the accident occurred (which can be viwed below). Based on this significant preparation, we were able to obtain a significant recovery for our client.