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Premises liability can attach to structures as flimsy as a tent

The days of the circus as depicted in such movies as "Toby Tyler" and "Dumbo" don't much exist anymore. The parade of elephants through a community as a way of announcing that the circus has arrived in town doesn't happen very much in Connecticut or most other places. There are reasons for this. It's expensive to pull off. There are permits to be obtained and special insurance is probably necessary. And there's the issue of a venue.

In the old days, the venue issue was addressed by erecting a tent. Even today, that's sometimes how circus troupes create the space. The problem, however, is that when you set up a structure like that, you are setting up a property and with that comes a special issue of premises liability, as one Florida company is learning.

Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped a proposed fine on the firm in connection with a big-top tent collapse last year in New Hampshire. A father and his 6-year-old daughter died and several dozen people were injured when a microburst of wind brought the house down.

Because some of the injured were workers, OSHA investigated. The agency found the circus company guilty of at least 14 different violations. They included ignoring repeated warnings from the National Weather Service about pending stormy weather.

In addition to that, the company didn't put up the tent according to the designs required by a professional engineer. The wrong tent stakes were used. Some of the stakes were damaged and in need of replacement. Electrical hazards were rife and other basic safety precautions were not taken.

When the wind swept through, the steel tent infrastructures came tumbling down on top of workers and the audience of about 100 people.

When you are invited onto a premises, whether it is brick and mortar or fabric, you have a right to expect that the owners and operators have done everything necessary to keep you safe. If an accident occurs and someone is injured or killed as a result, victims have a right to seek compensation for pain, suffering and loss.

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