February 15, 2019

"A Connecticut woman was severely hurt when she lit a quarter stick of dynamite that she believed was a candle during a power outage in her home..."

"... and is now suing its former owner for the mishap," the NY Post reports.
Mother of two Karina Gutierrez began searching her home for candles after thunderstorms knocked out power to her Bridgeport neighborhood on Sept. 6, 2018, the Connecticut Post reported.

She found what she thought was a candle in the basement and tried to light it up when it blew up, injuring her face and hands, according to the lawsuit against Oscar Aguirre, former owner of their Lindley Street home.

76 comments:

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

Darwin Award winner.

Lucien said...

What an idiot! She should be suing the power company.

ngtrains said...

It ‘blows up’ when ignighted with a blasting cap. Not when ‘lit’.

I don’t she would be alive if it did explode.

mccullough said...

Looking for a candle? No flashlight or flashlight app on the phone?

She may as well sue the maker of the dynamite stick for making it look like a candle.

David Blaska said...

Darwin Award nominee

Wince said...

"... and is now suing its former owner for the mishap," the NY Post reports.

The legal precedent having been set in the case Fudd v. Bunny.

Rob said...

When did she move from Florida?

Heartless Aztec said...

Back in my crazy days we would play an ersatz game called "Yank Ball". The game rules consisted of lighting an M40 (quarter stick of dynamite), bowling it underhand to the batter and then swatting at it as ot came sputtering in with a cricket bat. Fun game especially if coupled with mescal shots under a full pale moon in the desert of Baja Sur.

tcrosse said...

Hoist with the landlord's petard.

chickelit said...

Very cartoonish mishap.

gspencer said...

Always someone else is to blame. How about inspecting your house before you buy it and then later as you put your own imprint on it.

Unknown said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter_stick

A "quarter stick" is a common name for a firework.


Nonapod said...

I suspect it was a firecraker, which are often called quartersicks or M80s or M1000s. They contain flashpowder and are still very dangerous obviously. But real dynamite contains nitroglycerin and the modern versions don't have fuses.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Was it a MAGA bomb? If so - Trump's fault. Impeach!

SDaly said...

She didn't notice the lack of wax?

BarrySanders20 said...

How was your night? It was a blast.

She should have known something was amiss when the wick of the "candle" started to hiss and move quickly toward the "wax."

Gk1 said...

This sounds like a 3 Stooges gag. Unless it was ditch dynamite used to remove stumps, there is no way this could have been a real dynamite stick as someone pointed out you need a blasting cap to get that going not a fuse.

WK said...

There once was a lady named Alice.......

Gk1 said...

This sounds like a 3 Stooges gag. Unless it was ditch dynamite used to remove stumps, there is no way this could have been a real dynamite stick as someone pointed out you need a blasting cap to get that going not a fuse.

Amexpat said...

Don't know the law in this area, but there may very well be strict liability for the storage and use of dynamite. If so, the previous owner is liable. Even if there isn't strict liability, it was probably negligent of him to leave dynamite in a home he sold.

Freeman Hunt said...

A firecracker makes much more sense than dynamite. If it were dynamite, she'd be dead, wouldn't she?

stevew said...

@EDH

Thread winner! And so early too.

Spiros Pappas said...

This case isn't as bad as the burglar who fell through a skylight and sued the owner.

gilbar said...

pretty much HAD TO BE a firecracker; or
It wouldn't have had a fuse/wick
It wouldn't have gone off (burnt the crap out of her, maybe)

Bob Boyd said...

One of those rare times black face is forgivable.

tcrosse said...

Handy Home Tip: Never light a candle that says Acme on the side.

Rae said...

So, an M-80?

Usually, fireworks and explosives have warnings all over them.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Spiros Pappas said...

This case isn't as bad as the burglar who fell through a skylight and sued the owner.

A couple years ago in New Hampshire some burglars decided to use a cutting torch to get into a business's safe. The owner had stored a bunch of fireworks in the safe.

Imagine the world's biggest pipe bomb...

Nonapod said...

Yeah, I assume that an actual quarter stick of dynamite even it it didn't kill her outright would've blown her arm arm off up to the elbow and destroyed her face.

At any rate, anyone who has ever seen a lit fuse knows damn well when something ain't a candle and should be thrown as far away from oneself as quickly as possible. I learned that from Road Runner cartoons.

alan markus said...

@ Amexpat Even if there isn't strict liability

I was thinking of the same thing, considering the requirement that the seller disclose all known environmental hazards. Radon gas, septic systems failing, tainted water supply, buried waste, air quality issues, asbestos, lead, abandoned underground gas/oil tanks, etc.

Only defense may be if he had acquired the property from someone else and did not know this was left behind.

When I sold a house to close an estate (original owner occupant for 50+ years), there were a few things that I left behind in case they might be useful to the new owner (paint, stains, tools, ladder, etc.). Every item was laid out in the garage, and before closing the buyer had the opportunity to separate out what he did not want for me to dispose of.

reader said...

Rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats rock, and Arkansas beats Connecticut.

Danno said...

Blogger Bob Boyd said...One of those rare times black face is forgivable.

Though someone already declared a thread winner, this might be a candidate for a recall vote.

Quaestor said...

Wow. That story reeks of desperation.

tim in vermont said...

Did Bill Ayers live there once?

wendybar said...

Bhahahaha!!! tim in Vermont that was a perfect comment!!!

JAORE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Reading the snippet, I thought, "What an idiot."

Reading the news story, the former owner who left the explosives in the basement should face punitive damages of several tens of millions of dollars. And if any criminal laws apply, prosecution.

Mark said...

Yeah, I assume that an actual quarter stick of dynamite even it it didn't kill her outright would've blown her arm arm off up to the elbow and destroyed her face.

No need to assume. Just read the story --

"Gutierrez, who was treated at Bridgeport Hospital before being transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital, lost part of her left hand, injured her right eye and suffered permanent scarring of her face, chest and arms, the lawsuit says."

Clyde said...

It’s a good thing that she didn’t mistake it for a dildo.

The Godfather said...

Assuming it was not dynamite but a large fire cracker, would that affect the former owner's liability? In either case he would have left a dangerous item in the house when he sold it (knowingly, according to the complaint), without informing the purchaser. In either case, the plaintiff's actions -- lighting a fuse on something she had not inspected sufficiently to determine its nature -- were or may have been negligient or reckless.

This could be a fun law school hypothetical.

Ann Althouse said...

As others have said, how can you not notice that the thing wasn't wax? Wax has a distinctive feel.

Charlie said...

Blondes have more fun.

Ann Althouse said...

And why would you go down into the basement and root around in the dark among things that the former owners left behind thinking you might find something useful? I would stay out of unfamiliar stuff in the dark. Who knows what you might stick your hand into? If the lack of light is such a huge problem that you can't wait it out (at least sunrise is always coming), why would you exacerbate the problem by searching the basement? Make a mental note to buy a flashlight and keep it where you'll easily be able to get to it in a blackout, and then just put up with sitting around in the dark. What was it that made a candle so useful that she had to look for it in the dark?

That said, why don't house-sellers get all their stuff out of the house? I really don't feel any sympathy for the former owner. I hate that carelessness of leaving stuff behind that is troublesome to get rid of and can't be put in the moving van (like noxious chemicals).

Matt said...

You would think the original owner's homeowner's policy would cover this. There must be more to this story than meets the eye.

William said...

This is why the prudent home owner should take care to store his dynamite, candles, and Fleet Enemas in separate locations.

Amexpat said...

As others have said, how can you not notice that the thing wasn't wax?

That was stupid of course, but there was a power outage and she may have been stressed or flustered. Even if she is partially at fault, the previous owner is most at fault for leaving explosives in the house he sold

Freeman Hunt said...

It seems obviously negligent to leave explosives in a house you've vacated.

On the other hand, it seems obviously negligent to light things you find in the dark on fire.

Darrell said...

She would have been better off cursing the darkness.

Meade said...

Danno@ 10:10

chuck said...

> As others have said, how can you not notice that the thing wasn't wax?

There are a lot of people out there who don't know what radio broadcast towers are, or what they do. Heck, there are a lot of people who probably don't know that the flux goes inside the joint when soldering pipes. We are in many ways a population of stone age savages with a sprinkling of technically competent people who keep things going.

Fernandinande said...

It's my understanding that you need a blasting cap to ignite dynamite, but when I worked at a military ammo-dump the main guy said don't touch the dynamite because a static spark could set it off.

mikeski said...

Did it also blow all the windows out of their frames, and permanently deafen her? Then maybe it was dynamite. Still probably a heavy-duty firework.

And maybe the previous owner had them "hidden" if he lived in a state/county/city where fireworks are illegal?

chuck said...

> It ‘blows up’ when ignighted with a blasting cap. Not when ‘lit’.

Just so.

JAORE said...

Many moons ago I worked on a rock blasting crew.

Fuse, she lived, house still standing w/o substantial damage = NOT 1/4 stick of dynamite.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Darwin Award winner.

Only an "honorable mention" if you don't die.

Limited blogger said...

1/4 stick of dynamite - we used to call them 'ash cans' or 'M80s'

Yancey Ward said...

I am sorry, but you have to be a fucking idiot to mistake that for a candle.

Yancey Ward said...

EDH,

You owe me a new keyboard and cup of coffee!

Chuck said...

Hey, Althouse! Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad Co. !

What would Justice Cardozo say about this?

bagoh20 said...

I was sued once for opening a can of whoop ass in the dark. It was no accident.

SeanF said...

At no point in the article does it say that the former owner didn't disclose the information that there were fireworks/explosives left behind. Even the quote from the lawsuit doesn't say it:

“Mrs. Gutierrez’s injuries and losses were directly caused by the willful, wanton and reckless conduct of the defendant in that he knew of the existence of the explosive device but failed to remove it from the basement when he sold the property in deliberate disregard for the safety of the plaintiffs”.

It doesn't say, "failed to remove it from the basement or notify the plaintiffs of its presence", and I think that may be telling.

John Ray said...

Every M-80 I've seen had a fuse on the side, not the top. Most M-80's contain flash powder, however illicit M-80's (Mexican M's) might contain picric acid -- for the bigger bang. I've never seen any fireworks made of wax or having a wax exterior. Something wrong here or the victim is among the dumbest of humans. A cardboard clad candle? get real, lady --tell the jury that. Although high-end fireworks are extremely dangerous, they don't contain nitro.

Dynamite is nitro. Will burn or ignite when exposed to fire. But to get full power, one needs a blasting cap.

I think this lady might have found some home-made stuff -- which is extremely dangerous to light. I've seen powder laced candles, made as a joke.

Hagar said...

I suspect that what she lit was a roadside warning flare and no kind of dynamite at all.
Part for the course for the 20 somethings of TV land.

Jim at said...

"The legal precedent having been set in the case Fudd v. Bunny."

Well played.

BUMBLE BEE said...

Prove who left it there, and as has been mentioned dynamite is not detonated by fuse except in Warner Brothers cartoons.

BUMBLE BEE said...

Highway flares are struck with their endcap igniter and do not explode. Possibly some archaic
Railroad signaling device?

John Ray said...

Ever seen that series in which these two dudes go looking for old stuff in their Merc van -- the one with the cute tatooed lady giving directions to the next stop? In some of the series, they found old made to burn or explosive stuff. They never lit it, thus surviving to make the next show. 'nuff said.

reader said...

I love it when you guys spark a memory. My mom has dementia and I’m going to revel in every memory I have while I still can.

“I think this lady might have found some home-made stuff -- which is extremely dangerous to light. I've seen powder laced candles, made as a joke.”

My uncle used to make homemade fireworks in the 70’s. They were awesome and blew Safe and Sane out the window. Of course one year he burned our ladder down with a pin wheel. My uncle and dad would light them and run. My dad used a road flare to light them (he worked for Cal Trans so we had bunches of those).

GingerBeer said...

If I had a nickel...

Bruce Hayden said...

“Assuming it was not dynamite but a large fire cracker, would that affect the former owner's liability? In either case he would have left a dangerous item in the house when he sold it (knowingly, according to the complaint), without informing the purchaser. In either case, the plaintiff's actions -- lighting a fuse on something she had not inspected sufficiently to determine its nature -- were or may have been negligient or reckless.”

My memory is that explosives, like dynamite, may be the sort of thing that are inherently dangerous enough to qualify for strict liability. Seem to remember that from Torts better than 30 years ago. Interesting to see if any other former law school students have similar memories, or can do the research that I am too lazy to do. And leaving such laying around may be negligence, per se. (If there is such a thing - Torts wasn’t my strongest class in LS - except that IP infringement is also considered a tort). I think that I would argue that fireworks are not inherently as dangerous, so maybe shouldn’t qualify for strict liability. As a society, we have traditionally treated dynamite and the like significantly differently than mere fireworks. For example, in a lot of places, dynamite and the like is regulated to the extent of requiring serial numbers, an inventory, and even a license some places to own or detonate.

Bruce Hayden said...

One of my fond memories of the past concerning fireworks involved the Frisco, CO, fire department. They would put on the annual 4th of July fireworks over Dillon Reservoir. The problem was that there was inevitably some alcohol involved. So, we would get as close as we could to watch them, for the occasional firework chasing a drunk fireman that happened every several years. Ultimately, the city (and fire department) grew up, and eliminated much of the excitement.

Bilwick said...

Wile E. Coyote could not be reached for comment.

Mark said...

you have to be a fucking idiot to mistake that for a candle

Tort law is set at the lowest common denominator. It is not only for geniuses or smart people or people with a minimum level of sense. The law protects fucking idiots as well. The person who left the explosive there had a duty to remove it.

There are a lot of idiots in the world. Is it foreseeable that some idiot might find the thing and light it, thinking it a candle, a roadside flare or something else, not realizing what it is? Is it foreseeable that some child might find it and put a match to it? Absolutely, in both cases.

The burden was on the former homeowner who left it there.

Josephbleau said...

As a graduate Mining Engineer from my youth, this is pretty stupid. A piece of so called stick powder, ( or nitroglycerin dynamite), is 8" long. For many purposes like priming ANFO you break it in half and use 1/2 stick per blast hole. No one would break a stick into quarters (2"??) and if you did you would mush it all up. Dynamite burns with no detonation and will shoot only if you use a #6 blasting cap, or sometimes if you hit a stick or a burning stick with a hammer, say, it may shoot.

This was a big gunpowder firecracker and the person lit the fuse. And yes, blasting is "Legally" an inherently dangerous activity and has plenty of no recourse and limited insureability factors in the law. The BATF is getting more intolerant after 911. (BATF, not a government agency, but my local convenience store).

Zach said...

It ‘blows up’ when ignighted with a blasting cap. Not when ‘lit’.

It's called deflagration to detonation transition. Rapid burning converts to a shock wave, which detonates the rest of the explosive.

Dynamite, especially old dynamite, is dangerous because there's no quality control. People used all sorts of junk as mixers, and the quantity of explosive varies wildly. Nitroglycerine can sweat out of the mixer and form films which will detonate.

It's hard to see how the former owner wouldn't be liable. The hazards of dynamite are extremely well known, and there's no good reason not to dispose of it immediately after use. Old dynamite is even more dangerous, and leaving it around where untrained people are liable to encounter it is the most dangerous of all.

Mazo Jeff said...

Story doesn't say when the women bought the house. Could have been months or years. So if this M80 had been laying around in plain site (how could someone find it so easily in the dark), why didn't the new homeowner dispose of it?