NJ Teen’s Lawsuit Refuels Debate over Fireworks Sales

A Jackson, NJ, teenager filed a lawsuit late last month in Ocean County Superior Court seeking an undivulged amount of damages in connection with a fireworks mishap that left him partially blind. That lawsuit has refueled a long-lived debate over the legality of selling fireworks to residents of states in which their use is illegal. (1)

Last summer, 19-year-old Thomas Eldershaw agreed to help a friend set off fireworks during a July 4th celebration when one of the explosives miss-fired hitting Eldershaw in the face and eye. Eldershaw suffered facial burns and was left partially blinded as a result of this accident. His lawsuit names the seller of the fireworks — Sky King Fireworks of Morrisville, PA, the manufacturer of the fireworks and the friend who purchased the fireworks. (2)

New Jersey is one of a few states that continues to ban all consumer fireworks and allows display fireworks only by permit. As a result, the sale, exposure for sale, distribution, possession and use of fireworks within the State is illegal. (3) The neighboring state of Pennsylvania, however, does allow the sale of fireworks to consumers other than Pennsylvania residents. This has allowed for the establishment of so-called “border stores,” which has long been a contention between the two states. (2)

Back in 2006, the NJ State Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs sued Sky King Fireworks, along with three other Pennsylvania-based companies and one Virginia-based company for advertising and selling fireworks to New Jersey residents. That lawsuit claimed the companies were in violation of New Jersey’s Fireworks Regulation Law, which stipulates that it is “unlawful for any person to offer for sale, sell, possess or use fireworks in New Jersey without a valid permit.” (4)

The most recent lawsuit contends that while Sky King had signed a consent order in connection with the 2006 legal action designed to protect consumers, it has violated that agreement by selling fireworks to Eldershaw’s friend without specifically divulging the illegality of possessing the fireworks. (1)

The ambiguity in the law has caused some lawmakers in both states to take action. Former

New Jersey Sen. Peter Inverso five years ago introduced a resolution asking Pennsylvania to cease fireworks sales to residents of New Jersey. Pennsylvania Rep. John T. Galloway consequently introduced a bill prohibiting out-of-state fireworks sales but that bill has not yet been signed into law. (2)

(1) http://www.app.com/article/20110330/NJNEWS10/110330053/Jackson-teen-injured-

(2) http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2011/03/lawsuit_blames_pennsylvania_fi.html(3) http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lssa/laws/Fireworks_Act__Sale.html
(4) http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases06/pr20060626a.html

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