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Mon, July 15

Mohave County Fairgrounds free of fireworks lawsuit

The local defendants in a lawsuit stemming from a 2013 fireworks accident at the Mohave County Fairgrounds have all been dismissed from the case, but the future of Kingman’s fireworks show is unknown. (ALAN CHOATE/Miner)

The local defendants in a lawsuit stemming from a 2013 fireworks accident at the Mohave County Fairgrounds have all been dismissed from the case, but the future of Kingman’s fireworks show is unknown. (ALAN CHOATE/Miner)

KINGMAN - The final local defendant in a $12 million lawsuit stemming from a serious accident during the 2013 Independence Day fireworks show has been dismissed from the case.

The Mohave County Fair Association was one of several defendants named in a lawsuit filed by Ronald and Raola Lee, the parents of Jeremy Woodrow Lee, who suffered catastrophic injuries when a box of mortars detonated in his face during the show, which was held at the fairgrounds, sponsored by the city of Kingman, and funded by donations collected by the Kingman Boomers, a now-defunct nonprofit organization.

Senior U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick dismissed the association from the case on Monday. The city of Kingman was taken off the case in August, and the Boomers earlier in 2015.

And while the case against the city was dismissed last summer, it wasn't completely off the hook because the city rented the fairgrounds from the fair board. The rental contract called on the city to indemnify the fair board (meaning it would pay any financial liability the fair board was found to have) if the fair board was named in a lawsuit. That exposure went away when Sedwick dismissed the case.

City Attorney Carl Cooper said the city did not have to spend any funds to defend the lawsuit due to language he included in the city's contract with Lantis Productions, the firm that put on the show, due to a similar indemnification clause.

Sedwick dismissed the cases against the three Kingman entities "with prejudice," meaning they cannot be renamed in the lawsuit at a later date.

Lantis, a Utah-based pyrotechnic firm, remains a named defendant, as does the Huisky Trading Company, the New York-based importer of the Chinese fireworks.

The Lees seek monetary damages due to injuries suffered by their son, an assistant pyrotechnician who worked for Lantis. A box of five-inch mortars initially failed to detonate and when he went to check on them, they blew up in his face.

Lee suffered a traumatic brain injury and can no longer care for himself. He lost an eye and fractured his skull and several facial bones, along with other injuries.

City Manager John Dougherty said it is unknown if the City Council will attempt to rent the fairgrounds for a fireworks show next July, saying he expects the subject to be discussed "in depth" during budget hearings next spring.

An effort to put on the show in 2015 fizzled after the fair board determined the fairgrounds would not host the event. The fairgrounds was the only local venue suitable to hold the show given the larger fireworks used, and it was too late to contract with a fireworks company that used smaller shells that would have allowed for a different venue.

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