News, Personal & Catastrophic Injury

Television Producer Critically Injured During “Punkin Chunkin” Event Commences Lawsuit

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Via PRNewswire — Seeger Weiss LLP and The Law Offices of Marc S. Albert announced today that they have filed a Complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on behalf of Suzanne Dakessian against World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Inc., Wheatley Farms Inc., Discovery Communications, The State of Delaware and other defendants for catastrophic and permanent injuries which she sustained at the 2016 “Punkin’ Chunkin’” championship event.

On November 6, 2016, Ms. Dakessian, a producer with Sharp Entertainment based in New York City, was dispatched to cover the “Punkin’ Chunkin” event, held at Wheatley Farms, Bridgeville, Delaware, and televised by the Science Channel. During the final launch by a giant pumpkin-shooting air cannon dubbed the “Pumpkin Reaper,” the cannon malfunctioned and giant pieces of shrapnel flew off, striking Ms. Dakessian in the head and causing catastrophic injuries.

The annual “Punkin’ Chunkin'” championship is a competitive event in which teams, using various kinds of homemade contraptions, launch pumpkins across distances. Competing air cannons are capable of firing pumpkins over 4,000 feet, nearly a mile. Unfortunately, the safety and inspection protocols for the event by Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Inc., the firm of Eastham and Associates—who had been retained to act as safety consultants for the event—and others, were sorely lacking, resulting in the use of a dangerous and defective air cannon in close proximity to the nearly 100,000 people attending, including many children.

When the cannon, built and operated by William Schell and Dominick Daffner, was fired, a heavy metal plate about the size of a car door, along with other debris, dislodged and flew into the air. It struck Ms. Dakessian with tremendous force in the head and face, causing injuries so severe that initially the Delaware State Police had reported her death. She was intubated at the scene and flown by helicopter to the Christiana Medical Center, the only level I trauma center in Delaware, where she was eventually stabilized in critical condition. She underwent emergency surgery to remove part of her skull due to brain swelling, thereafter remaining in a coma for an extensive period of time.

Ms. Dakessian suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of the incident, including irreversible brain damage, a fractured skull, more than ten other fractures of the head and face, blindness in her right eye and serious injury to her left upper extremity resulting in significant loss of its use, leaving her unable to perform her work duties as well as many daily functions. She has filed action for catastrophic personal injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress and economic damages suffered as a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ negligence, gross negligence and wrongful conduct.

“These horrific injuries could and should have been avoided,” said counsel Christopher A. Seeger. “Those entrusted by Ms. Dakessian and the thousands of other spectators with their safety and wellbeing should bear the consequences of their negligence.”

“Ms. Dakessian’s life has been irrevocably changed, and those responsible must be held to account,” said co-counsel Marc S. Albert. “With the manner in which this accident occurred, the defendants’ negligence in the operation, management and control of the event and the inspection of the air cannon in particular—if one was in fact done—is eminently clear.”

Ms. Dakessian is represented by Christopher A. Seeger of Seeger Weiss and Marc S. Albert of the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert, The case is Suzanne Dakessian v. World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Inc. et al., case number 1:99-mc-09999.

Christopher A. Seeger

Media Contact:
Roy Schwartz
Director of Communications

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