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Woman who was seriously injured when a North End chimney collapsed on her and the hammock attached to it sues the hammock company

A woman who suffered permanent injuries in 2017 when a chimney on Charter Street in the North End collapsed on the hammock she was in is suing the hammock company, charging it not only failed to warn people that attaching hammocks to brick structures might be dangerous, it actually encouraged the practice through a photo-caption contest.

In her suit, filed this week in US District Court in Boston, Erin Field of Somerville says Eagle Nest Outfitters of Asheville, NC disregarded repeated instances of fatalities and serious injuries caused by the practice and used photos of people swinging in hammocks attached to brick structures - including the Great Wall of China - and other, flimsier structures, in its photo-caption contest and other marketing.

Field and her boyfriend were visiting with her brother, Todd, in his 43 Charter St. apartment the night of July 10, 2017, when they went up to the roof of the neighboring 45 Charter St. and Todd attached his Eagle Nest hammock to the same chimney he'd previously used with no problems in the month he had lived there.

Not long after, a bit after midnight, Erin Field got in the hammock. Then her boyfriend joined her.

Upon Jack sitting on the hammock, the brick column to which one side was attached collapsed on Erin, causing catastrophic, lifelong injuries.

In her formal complaint, Field says her brother only used the chimney as a support for the hammock because of Eagle Nest marketing.

On or about June 1, 2017, Todd moved into the apartment at 43 Charter Street in Boston. After moving to the apartment, Todd continued to review ENO's social marketing campaign and/or photo caption contest.

As a result of influence from ENO's above described marketing campaign, Todd decided to hang his ENO hammock on the rooftop of the apartment building located at 45 Charter Street, which was accessible from his 43 Charter Street apartment rooftop. He attached the hammock with the Atlas Hanging Straps to brick columns located on the rooftop.

Based on influence from ENO's above described marketing campaign, Todd took a picture within a month of moving into his apartment showing his hammock affixed to the brick columns. Todd attached a caption to the photo stating, "no trees no problem."

The complaint adds:

As a manufacturer of ENO hammocks and hanging straps, ENO owed a duty to Plaintiff and to all persons whom its products might foreseeably harm to exercise due care in the manufacturing, marketing and sale of its ENO hammocks and hanging straps.

ENO knew or should have known that affixing ENO's DoubleNest Hammock using its Atlas Hanging Strap to fixed points that were not stable trees presented an unreasonably dangerous condition that could result in serious injury to users.

ENO breached its duty of care to Plaintiff by marketing and promoting ENO hammocks and straps in a manner that encouraged users to attach hammocks with straps to fixed points other than stable trees.

As a direct and proximate result of ENO's negligence, Plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries.

Field is seeking at least $1 million in damages.

Complete complaint (1.1M PDF).

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Comments

I'd also like to know what the owner of that neighboring building thought when some guy damaged their property with a guerrilla hammock deployment?

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55

They should have fully inspected the cement between the bricks of the chimney before wrapping a rope from a hammock around it. Many of these chimney’s in these older buildings are not in use any longer , that is why many are in disrepair .. These days alot of buildings use PVC piping to vent out from heating system .

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18

They may have simply precipitated something that would have happened in the next big storm, and I wonder what their insurance company thinks about having poorly maintained brick structures on their property?

This can go round and round and round.

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14

Wasn't there just a story a couple days ago about a couple of local girls dying in a very similar circumstance, with a brick structure collapsing?

Perhaps there's a larger public education message here about brick structures failing as a result of lateral pressure they weren't designed for?

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28

I feel horrible for people that have been hurt by these falling structures. A hammock is supposed to be a nice relaxing thing and the thought of death or harm being done due to using one is kind of scary.

I also think people need to measure twice and cut once. A brick chimney is a tall/long non load bearing structure designed to channel heat and smoke. They tend to not be reinforced, they are rather small in diameter and hollow, held together by simple cement. Just looking around it is not uncommon to see these structures falling down or apart. They do not have a sense of strength to me. I would not say a professional should be around to install these things but maybe we need to do a better job of teaching people common sense and understanding of surroundings.

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40

The force pulling on the ends of a hammock is much greater than the downward force applied by a person (or two) sitting on the middle. As you say, chimneys are not designed to withstand such forces.

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16

Yes - depending on the angle of the hammock rope.

Yup. Sounds like a freshman physics problem.

It's been a long long time, but if the rope is 10 degrees below horizontal, a 150 lb person would result in 431.9 lb of total force on the chimney and 425.3 lb of pure lateral force (same for whatever thing the other end of the hammock was attached to). It would go up linearly with the total weight on the hammock. And the closer the horizontal the stronger the force would be (and it would go up quickly as the angle decreased).

How many people just sit in a hammock? Any movement, swaying or otherwise, multiplies the load. Wouldn’t take much to topple a chimney that’s only meant to support its own weight and not blow over in the wind.

But suing the hammock company is a stretch.

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49

Care to explain why? The complaint presents a very reasonable argument that they were negligent in encouraging their customers to use their product in a way which could reasonably cause harm

Unless "stretch " is a dumb pun, in which case, blugh

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18

It was an opinion.
A good lawyer could make a great argument about suing anyone, that doesn't make it right.
If the hammock was defective , ok. If the brick structure was built for a hammock with instructions they provided, ok.
But a chimney they have nothing to do with is not their responsibility.

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37

Revising my comment, I reacted without reading the full pdf.
I still think it's a bit like buying a knife then complaining that you cut yourself, but I guess the argument is that the general public doesn't know how bricks work, so ENO should be responsible for telling them.

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17

It would be like cutting yourself on a knife you purchased because the company explicitly advertised it as a knife which would be safe to drag against your skin, unlike other knives

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12

of popcorn. Maybe it's about time someone took on big hammock....

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21

At least, not microwave popcorn.

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15

I'm for the people.

Reading the actual legal complaint changed my mind.

The hammock company marketed the strapping systems as a means of attaching the hammock to such a structure without any cautionary language.

Looks to me like this isn't as daft as it first sounds.

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20

Unless the hammock company showed up and installed it on that chimney, I do t think they should be held responsible. It's not the company's responsibility to know when writing their instructions and taking marketing photos that this particular chimney in the North End was in poor condition.

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17

They effectively endorsed, described, and demonstrated this use as acceptable.

It isn't about being this particular chimney, either - it is about unreinforced structures made of brick not being suitable.

There is a reason we have consumer product safety regulations. Being disruptive by using social media without thinking things through doesn't indemnify you from hazards you create in doing so.

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18

Except they didn't. The photos from social media in the complaint did not show hammocks tied to structures that might topple over on top of people.

More than that, the hammock itself did not fail. If the hammock was unnaturally unstable, or had twisted around someone's neck and strangled someone, then that would be a consumer product safety issue. The hammock in this case worked as advertised.

No, this is why we have so many lawyers driving around in BMWs. A secondary effect is product instruction books with pages of warnings nobody reads. This legal system doesn't do anything to keep people safe.

The user created the dangerous situation to save $20.

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13

Nobody noticed that the structure collapsed after the boyfriend got in?

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22

I’m sure his girlfriend noticed.

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13

Ours (attached to a stand) came with a weight limitation of four hundred pounds. That's one Trump or two young adults who never seem to leave the thing.

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14

What's next, "who stole the strawberries"?

and it is a double hammock. I guess the chimney stack was only for one person.

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13

It is a DoubleNest. However, the plaintiffs also list accidents when the user attached the hammocks to actual trees. And the photo contest doesn’t show chimneys.

In general, attaching any hammock to a weak support can result in injury. This is not specific to the ENO brand.

Nice try with the photo op contest.
Guess what? Old trees fall over too.

And they should pay to repair that chimney.
Isn't accessing the roof is off limits? Let's see the lease.
Anyhow, why go poking at old wounds, move on people.
I feel for the hammock co who has to spend money on lawyers deal with defending this b.s.

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14

That photo contest is gonna decide this case.

Don't go into business, son.

#1 rule of installing a hammock: Make sure what you're anchoring it to is solid and secure and can handle the weight. Just because you CAN secure it to a chimney doesn't mean you should secure it to YOUR chimney.

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11

It might be a violation of the building code and might void your homeowners insurance.

It’s unfortunate that this happened, but the family is obviously trying to find some defendant to pay for her medical costs. Accidents happen and they just used poor judgement.