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Homeowner faces possible charges in Pulaski bonfire explosion; attorney discusses house party liability

Posted at 11:57 PM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 00:57:42-05

SHAWANO COUNTY, Wis. (NBC 26) — The Shawano County Sheriff's Office says there will also be charges referred against the homeowner who was there at the time of the bonfire explosion.

BACKGROUND: Charges recommended for two teens in Pulaski bonfire incident

We spoke in general with Janssen Law attorney Ryan Froelich about what kind of liability someone could face in connection with a gathering at their house.

Froelich is a personal injury lawyer and isn't connected to the Shawano County case. He spoke in general terms and not about this specific case.

"Negligence is just, did the homeowner have a duty to provide a safe setting on their property?" Froelich said.

He says a homeowner hosting a party could have criminal and civil liability.

"Did the property owner do something that was criminal that resulted in someone being hurt?" he said. "And if so, charges are going to be looked at for that."

From a civil perspective, he says it can come down to factors like alcohol and minors being present. He says a homeowner could potentially be found responsible for all damages. But insurance could provide financial coverage.

"They're going to look at the conduct of everyone involved, from the homeowner to guests at the property to even the person who was injured," Froelich said. "Who was what percentage causally negligent? Depending on how that allocation of negligence takes place, that's going to be what the homeowners' liability is."

Froelich says that liability is truly looked at on a case-by-case basis.

"You could put the same set of facts in front of ten different juries, and you may have ten different allocations of negligence or liability," he said.

Read initial reports of the Pulaski bonfire incident here: Multiple people seriously burned after bonfire explosion in Shawano County

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"This was a tragic event," Chief Deputy George Lenzner said in a statement from the Shawano County Sheriff's Office. "An event that due to reckless, and negligent behavior of those responsible, caused physical, emotional, and mental pain for those affected."