Massachusetts groom Barry Billcliff is being sued by two wedding guests who allege they were hit by a drone at the reception of his wedding. Billcliff and his bride, Nichole, were married over the summer at New Hampshire’s Searles Castle. A drone was used during the reception to take aerial photos. Massachusetts residents Kneena Ellis and Kelly Eaton claim they were dancing when the drone came out of nowhere and slammed into their faces.The drone collision allegedly fractured Eaton’s nose and orbital bone and gave her a concussion. Ellis claims that she suffered a wound that required over 20 stitches. According to the plaintiffs, the groom was operating the drone at the time. Billcliff countered that while he owns the drone, he was not flying it at the time of the accident. In fact, he maintains he was standing in the middle of the dance floor when the drone crash occurred.
On December 1, 2016, Ellis and Eaton filed suit for negligence in Rockingham Superior Court, claiming permanent physical and emotional injuries. In addition to Billcliff, the lawsuit lists Searles Castle Event Management, Inc. as a defendant.
The Vice President of the castle said he did not give the wedding party permission to fly the drone, and at one point he even instructed the groom to land the drone. “I was telling him it was illegal,” the Vice President said. “I don’t know how I could have prevented it.”
Drones have become increasingly popular as the technology has advanced, and prices have lowered. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that at least 1.6 million drones were sold in 2015.
This is far from the first drone-related personal injury lawsuit. There is no official tally of damage caused by drones, yet the roster includes musician Enrique Iglesias and Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer. This fall, a woman sued a University of Southern California fraternity chapter and event-planning company after she suffered a head injury when a drone being used to photograph attendees at a frat party fell on her.
Recent years have also seen a surge of lawsuits involving claims by drone owners against neighbors for shooting down drones flying over their property. These lawsuits arise from claims of invasion of privacy and trespass.
Drone incidents are particularly grave in war zones abroad. This September, a Pakistani journalist sued the U.S. government, claiming the CIA was responsible for killing his brother and son during a 2009 drone attack in his home. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, nearly 2,000 people have been killed by drones since 2009 in Pakistan alone.
Lawyers recommend that private drone users are properly insured to protect themselves from large payouts. A new company, Verifly, provides on-demand insurance policies for consumer drone enthusiasts and commercial users for about $10 an hour, currently approved in 45 states.
If you have been harmed by someone else’s assault, you may need the assistance of a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.
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Student Sues Northeastern University for Mishandling of Assault Case, Neumann Law Group, November 9, 2016.