Endymion law suitHit by a bag of beads. Did you assume the risk?

You’re at Mardi Gras having a good time New Orleans style when a string of beads hits you in the eye. Do you have any recourse against the person who threw the beads? Against the Mardi Gras krewe organizers?

Take this a step further: suppose it was a whole bag of ping-pong ball size beads and you get hit in the head, knocked unconscious and are taken to the hospital. Is anyone responsible for your pain and suffering, not to mention the ambulance bill and all the medical expenses?

In a personal injury suit against Endymion The Fourth Circuit decided this week that the risk of injury was assumed. The foundation of the decision is called the Mardi Gras immunity statute, La. R.S. 9:2796, which provides:

A. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no person shall have a cause of action against any krewe or organization, any group traditionally referred to as Courir de Mardi Gras, or any member thereof, which presents Mardi Gras parades, including traditional rural Mardi Gras parades, processions, or runs in which participants ride on horseback, march, walk, or ride on horse-drawn or motordrawn floats, or wheeled beds, or other parades, whether held on a public or private street or waterway, or in a building or other structure, or any combination thereof, connected with pre-Lenten festivities or the Holiday in Dixie Parade, or against any nonprofit organization chartered under the laws of this state, or any member thereof, which sponsors fairs or festivals that present parades or courirs, for any loss or damage caused by any member thereof, during or in conjunction with or related to the parades or courirs presented by such krewe or organization, unless said loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of the krewe or organization…

OK, OK, you get the idea. The statute goes on:

B. Any person who is attending or participating in one of the organized parades of floats or persons listed in Subsection A of this Section, when the parade begins and ends between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight of the same day, assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed, or hurled by members of the krewe or organization in such parades held prior to the effective date of this Section. The items shall include but are not limited to beads, cups, coconuts, and doubloons unless said loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of said krewe or organization.

So, here’s that “deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence” language again. It turns out that based on other cases, especially the Zulu hit-in-the-head-by-a-coconut suits, it is about impossible to prove any act by a krewe is “wanton” or “grossly negligent”. Legally speaking, those are pretty high hurdles to have to jump in order to win your case.

In this case, the suit was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment since nobody saw exactly who threw the bag of beads and since assumption of risk is very much assumed in these cases.

Keep all of this in mind the next time you enjoy a Mardi Gras parade.