Legal action may be taken in circus incident

Nicole Gerber

PROVIDENCE – Now that several of the injured circus performers have hired a lawyer, many are questioning who may be at fault if a lawsuit ensues.

But there’s no one answer – since many different groups could be implicated in a long and complicated lawsuit.

When the circus comes to town – it’s more than just a show for the masses.

It’s contracts, agreements, and partnerships with several different groups.

So the accident that injured eight aerial performers and someone on the ground at the dunk last month could lead investigators to a number of different organizations at fault.

But if the performers go through with filing lawsuits there are some groups that can’t be sued.

“We have to presume that the people who were injured… that they work for the circus… the circus would be immune from any suing for pain and suffering assuming these people are covered by what’s called workers compensation,” said legal analyst Ken Schreiber.

The same applies to the people who installed the rigging, including the carabiner that snapped – ultimately causing the Hair Hang act to fall nearly 40 feet.

If those people are circus employees, they can’t be sued. However…

“If they’re subcontractors, which many many times they are… they’re going to be sued for sure. Those are known as independent or subcontractors. In addition to that you’ve got the Dunk Center, you’ve got the city of Providence that may have some liability,” said Shreiber.

But in the end it ultimately depends on what kind of contract the circus signed with the Dunk before setting up the show. Often times, venue contracts will include an indemnity clause – meaning the circus would agree that even if Ringling itself showed signs of negligence, it would agree to cover responsibility for the dunk.

If a lawsuit is ultimately filed…it could trace all the way back to the carabineer manufacturer.

(c) WLNE-TV 2014