Not all accident cases are ones that you would expect, like a rear-end car accident or a slip and fall on snow and ice, or a common medical malpractice claim like failing to timely diagnose cancer. Sometimes, Personal Injury claims arise out of crazy accidents like this one.

The Case of the Flying Umbrella

The common thread amongst almost all Personal Injury cases is that someone has acted carelessly in that they have done something or failed to do something that they knew or should have realized was dangerous and could hurt someone.

Everyone knows by common experience that umbrellas can fly away and cause injury if they are not properly secured and in high winds. I’m sure we have all had the experience of holding onto an umbrella during a windy storm and have been conscious of the fact that if we let go of that umbrella, it could fly away and strike and hurt someone. Similarly, most of us have probably witnessed a beach umbrella that was not properly secured become dislodged and start flying or tumbling down the beach causing people to scramble to avoid being hit and injured.

It was a similar incident that ended up seriously injuring my client.

My client was attending a musical event at a club and the venue included both indoor and outdoor facilities. Thunderstorms were predicted for the evening that she was going to be at the facility. The facility had an outdoor area that included lightweight plastic tables and chairs and the facility used heavy wooden umbrellas that they secured with homemade lightweight coffee can bases filled with cement. The large, heavy umbrellas were threaded through holes in the plastic tables and secured by just gravity and those homemade bases.

On the evening of the incident, thunderstorms were predicted and it was clear that a storm was approaching.  The winds started to pick up about five minutes before the accident. Despite notice of approaching storms, the facility did not put down the umbrellas. As my client was walking near the tables with umbrellas and heading to get food, a strong gust of wind came through the area and caused multiple umbrellas to become dislodged from their lightweight bases and fly away from the plastic tables. One of those umbrellas struck my client in the hip and knocked her over, resulting in a fractured hip that required two surgeries to repair.

Although not the run-of-the-mill rear-end car accident case, this event was a relatively clear-cut case of Negligence on behalf of the facility. Under Pennsylvania law, the facility had a duty to protect the safety of its guests by inspecting the premises and discovering any potentially dangerous conditions. The facility also had a duty to take appropriate safety precautions in order to prevent foreseeable injuries. In this case, the facility should have known that it was a dangerous situation to have heavy umbrellas secured in flimsy plastic tables by lightweight bases, especially when a thunderstorm was predicted and winds started picking up while there were guests at the facility. The facility should not have had the umbrella up when thunderstorms were predicted and the employees should have noticed the approaching storm and put the umbrellas down in order to prevent foreseeable injuries.

My client was ultimately successful with her Personal Injury Negligence claim and received fair compensation for her serious injuries. The lesson to be learned for property owners who hold their facilities open to the public and make money hosting guests is that they need to think about potential safety issues ahead of time and take appropriate precautions to protect their guests. In addition, facilities should make sure that they have adequate insurance in the event that accidents and injuries do occur.

Tim Rayne is a Personal Injury and Car Accident lawyer with the Chester County law firm of MacElree Harvey, Ltd. For over 25 years, Tim has been helping injured accident victims understand their legal rights and receive fair treatment from insurance companies. Tim has extensive experience in representing clients throughout Pennsylvania and in settling and trying Personal Injury cases. Contact Tim for a free consultation concerning your Personal Injury action  at 610.840.0124 or

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