Delaware: “Punkin Chunkin canceled for second year”

Punkin Chunkin, a ballistic pumpkin-launching event, had developed into a beloved Delaware event until a 2013 accident where an ATV overturned on a farmer’s field, leading to an injury claim. “On Oct. 8…organizers pulled the plug for a second year, saying liability insurance for the event had proven unobtainable. Even supporters of Punkin Chunkin were left wondering: Is it over for good?” [Wilmington News-Journal, our coverage last year] More: Bob Dorigo Jones.


  • This is a Libertarian’s dream situation. The government is not participating in determining whether this event should be held. Instead, it is the insurance industry. One might blame tort lawyers, but why? That is what the tort system is for.

    I find it hard to imagine that insurance is impossible to obtain. My understanding is that Lloyds of London will insure anything for a price. I suspect that the price for insurance was simply too high for the organizers. That is, the event was too dangerous to hold.

  • Agree with Allan that this is a perfect example of libertarian principles in action.

    Too bad some knucklehead, Daniel Fair, had to go and wreck a good thing for everyone else. No doubt he, as a volunteer in his personal ATV, was quite familiar with zipping around rural terrain. As a volunteer he did it because the opportunity was too good to pass up. Assumption of the risk.

  • The notion that because insurance for a one-off event is found to be expensive or difficult to obtain, the markets must be sending a sophisticated signal that that event is too risky to consider holding, is quaint. Readers in many parts of the U.S. may verify this for themselves by trying to buy one-off insurance for some sort of low-risk community event — say, a craft show or folk dance — without relying on a sponsoring organization that has already got insurance itself.

    • Good point.

      I do think that there might be a sophisticated signal being sent. However, it might not bet because it is due to risk, it might also be due to the cost of underwriting the specific event.

      This is a market problem more than anything else. If there were a demand for such insurance, there would be market for such. Apparently, you think there is a demand. If that is true, where is the market? Perhaps the administrative costs of providing such insurance is so great that it is not worth offering.

      Do you agree that it is prudent to get insurance for events of this sort? And would you agree that it is not the government’s responsibility to provide the insurance? If so, whose fault is it other than the market?

      I am sorry, but if it is true that the event the size of the Pumpkin Chunkin could not find insurance, it is the fault of the organizer.

      I would point out that there is a large market for events that happen with regularity, such as weddings, graduation parties, etc. These events occur so often that paying the actuaries to come up with rate tables is not too bad. But the costs of insuring unique types of events, such as chucking pumpkins, probably outstrip the profits that the insurance company could make.

      I could amost guarantee that, if the event had offered to pay enough for the insurance, they could have gotten it. It just would have been very expensive. Much like it is more expensive to buy a custom made suit than one off the rack.

  • An article that may be of interest to those who haven’t seen it – together with a link to one of the party’s motions for dismissal, which at least strongly suggests the kinds of claims made by plaintiff.

    USA Today article and Motion link

    There are a lot of factors at play here – including the expense of medical treatment, the remote potential of life-changing injuries (as occurred here) from both foreseeable hazards and freak accident, the “name everyone” school of litigation (demanded by some states, I am unfamiliar with the laws of this one in that regard), deep pockets in the form of insurance companies for the “everyone” named above – and others.

    It appears the landowner relied on the Premises Guest Statute (among other defenses) – but as has been noted on these pages before, those doctrines are under attack by those who have suffered injury (sometimes tragic) and seek someone else to blame/pay for their losses. I assume the organizers relied on voluntary assumption of risk and the like.

    Now, “The parties mutually agreed to resolve the matter” and the event is no more. Is society better for it? I don’t think so.

    Allan, given estimated attendance of 20,000 people per event, Plaintiff’s demands equate to a surcharge of $225/attendee. Not counting administrative costs, costs of defense, etc related to potential injuries. Obviously, its unlikely (based on past events, at least) that such a tragedy will occur on a yearly basis, but since tickets were $10 for adults, children free, even a single tragedy resulting in multi-million dollar claims every 20 years or so would at least double the necessary ticket costs. I have to believe attendance would fall in the face of that, leading to yet higher ticket sales, leading to further attendance reductions, leading…

    I’m hard pressed to understand how any insurer could make an even remotely accurate actuarial risk table before extending coverage when parties can’t rely on a statute as forcefully written as Del Statute this:

    “No person who enters onto private residential or farm premises owned or occupied by another person, either as a guest without payment or as a trespasser, shall have a cause of action against the owner or occupier of such premises for any injuries or damages sustained by such person while on the premises unless such accident was intentional on the part of the owner or occupier or was caused by the wilful or wanton disregard of the rights of others.”

  • Perhaps they should try to co-locate Punkin Chunkin with Burning Man. It’s doubtful that anyone there would realize that things were fallling from the sky, and given the pharmaceuticals in widespead use, proving causation of injuries would be problematic at best (“It was, like, mystic. I was attempting to commune with The One of Nature, and vegatables began falling from the Stars.”). And, when the event is over, the organizers can burn theTrebuchets, along with the rest of the bonfires, and then, who will be able to tell who chunked what from where. Finally, where would you rather go for an uninhibited good time — Delaware or Nevada?

    • “Perhaps they should try to co-locate Punkin Chunkin with Burning Man”

      That has so many possibilities.

      Giant air cannons, centrifugal throwers, trebuchets and torsion catapults + pumpkins + fire = Flaming Pumpkin Wars!

      Add an accuracy component: The first team to light the burning man with a flaming pumpkin wins.

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