Man Awarded $3.86 Million for Frightening Fall from Hot Air Balloon
A 72-year-old man apparently thought it would be a fun idea to take a hot air balloon ride at the 2009 annual Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.
After signing a waiver that said he would not hold the pilot responsible if she was negligent, Thomas Hurd climbed into the balloon’s gondola.
But soon after, the ride turned into a harrowing event.
The balloon dropped in height, then struck a tent on the edge of the fiesta field. Hurd fell out of the gondola, plummeting 20 feet to the ground. The impact crushed his pelvis, broke his back and hip socket and injured his heel, requiring multiple surgeries.
He sued the pilot, Timmerly Eklund, and the Balloon Fiesta organization.
Hurd, a former GM engineer and handyman, can no longer work or do simple chores.
“Anything around the house, we have to hire out now,” he said. “I’m incapable of doing anything. I can’t even sweep the floor.”
Because of the waiver he signed, Hurd had to prove at trial that the pilot was reckless, not just negligent. His attorneys argued that the pilot flew too low, ignoring a 75-foot height requirement and dipping as low as 15 feet, and that the fiesta organization placed tents too close to where the balloons flew.
The defense attorneys argued that Hurd was not holding on properly during the ride.
The jury held the pilot 60 percent at fault for recklessness and the fiesta organization 30 percent to blame for negligence. It also said Hurd was 10 percent at fault for his own injuries, which will reduce the verdict by 10 percent.
After the verdict, Hurd said the multi-million dollar award means he will no longer have to sell his house in order to pay for his medical bills.
“I hope to God nobody else goes through what we’re going through,” he said.