Fatal Accident in Virginia Beach Puts the Spotlight on Umbrellas

Last week, a woman in Virginia Beach suffered an unexpected and sudden death when she was struck by a beach umbrella that was picked up by the wind.

The death of Lottie Michelle Belk, from Chester in Virginia, shocked Hampton Roads. She was hit by an umbrella that was meant to have been anchored on the Oceanfront last Wednesday. The umbrella hit Ms. Belk in the chest and she later died of her injuries. My thoughts are with her family after this shocking tragedy.

Umbrellas and patio furniture can be dangerous

Hotels can be liable for pool and patio furniture

Although this seems like a freak accident, there have been other examples of beach umbrellas causing injuries and deaths. Indeed, umbrellas and patio furniture, in general, can pose a hazard to holidaymakers and local authorities, hotels or other landowners can be liable for accidents.

Six years ago, a woman from Baltimore was seriously injured when she was impaled by a beach umbrella while she was lying on the sand at Ocean City in Maryland.

Lynn Stevens was on the beach on a windy day when a beach umbrella was lifted up in the air and came falling to the ground at a high rate of speed, reported the Dispatch.

The spiked end of the umbrella pole went into Stevens’ thigh and nearly severed a major artery. She was lucky to have survived the incident.

Beach Umbrellas Should be Securely Anchored

On many beaches, members of beach patrol will offer advice on how to properly set up an umbrella, but will not install it for beachgoers. Beach stand operators should be able to set up umbrellas for the relevant weather conditions and can be liable for an umbrella accident. The same applies to hotels if they own and operate beach equipment. However, if a renter moves an umbrella and it then causes an injury, a stand operator may not be liable. If a piece of furniture or an umbrella is defective, the victim may have grounds to sue a manufacturer.

These kinds of cases remain rare, but they do occur. A recent report in the Naples Daily News detailed how two Florida businesses were being sued over serious accidents involving table umbrellas.

Vacationers face many potential hazards ranging from food poisoning to swimming pool accidents, balconies failing in hotels and wild animal attacks. I was shocked to read about how a two-year-old boy is missing after an attack by an alligator at a Disney resort. Hotel owners and operators have a duty to protect their guests from foreseeable dangers.

You can read more about injuries at a business here on our website. Call our premises liability team for a consultation at (757) 455-0077.

Griff O'Hanlon

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