Premises Liability: Man Loses Finger In Museum Exhibit

A family trip to the museum should not end in a 911 call and a trip to the hospital for several emergency surgeries. For one man, however, that is exactly what happened after a museum exhibit severed his ring finger.

This accident happened at Dallas’s Perot Museum of Nature and Science. One of the museum’s exhibits allows visitors to compare vertical jump heights with the abilities of professional athletes. Entitled “Jump,” the exhibit now appears to have a serious design defect that will likely result in a premises liability lawsuit against the museum.

A father participated in the exhibit, jumping as high as he could to hit a button at the top of the exhibit. At the top of his jump, the man’s wedding ring caught onto the button – and the exhibit somehow severed his ring finger. He immediately called 911 and took his finger with him to the hospital. Although doctors tried for eight days to reattach the finger, they were ultimately unsuccessful.

Museums and other recreational facilities that are open to the public have an obligation to maintain their premises in a safe condition. This responsibility goes beyond mere maintenance – museums cannot knowingly allow access to a hazardous condition without warning guests of the danger. In this case, the museum could be liable for failing to anticipate this kind of personal injury hazard.

Even if the museum kept the exhibit in good repair, it should have considered whether the design itself posed an unreasonable danger.

Source: KHOU.com, “Man who lost finger at museum exhibit plans to sue,” David Schechter, Feb. 8, 2013