The family of a 6-year-old boy who sustained severe burns to his arm and chest after falling into a rundown fire pit at Huntington City Beach is asking the city for $500,000.
Seth Richardson fell backward into the fire pit, which still had smoldering fire within, about 6 p.m. April 17 while flying a kite at the beach, said attorney Rob Gibson, who is representing Seth and his father, Jason Richardson.
The family is holding the city responsible for Seth's injuries in a claim filed Aug. 10. Gibson said the city failed to properly maintain and monitor the fire pit.
"I think the pits need to be properly maintained. They need to be cleaned out, and the pits need to be replaced," Gibson said.
At least two similar accidents took place in the city and led to lawsuits, Gibson said. However, both occurred at Huntington State Beach, which is outside of city jurisdiction.
Seth was transported to UC Irvine Regional Burn Center, where he underwent treatment for several days.
Gibson said he hadn't received a response from the city.
"I anticipate they'll deny the claim," he said.
If the city denies it, a lawsuit will be filed, Gibson said.
Gibson said the city will likely blame the father for not keeping an eye on his son, but that's a weak argument.
"I'm a parent also, and when I take my kids to the beach, I keep an eye on them," he said. "This wasn't a situation where Seth had gone off on his own. His dad was on the beach with him, probably no more than 30 yards away when this happened. He could see him. They were flying his kite."
City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the claim is being reviewed, but has not reached her office yet.
"I couldn't speak to why it happened," she said. "We have the appropriate signage for people to know the potential risk."
She said those who might not live in the city might not be familiar with the fire pits or read the signs.
There's also the issue of people leaving the fire pits with coals or smoldering fires in them. The city addressed eliminating the fire pits altogether last year as part of budget cuts, but only some were eliminated.