San Francisco man sues: Says skull crushed by giant pine cone

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2015 4:25 PM

By Daniel Wallis

(Reuters) - A military veteran who said his skull was crushed by a 16-pound (7-kg) pine cone as he rested in the shade of a conifer grove at a San Francisco park has sued the U.S. government, saying employee negligence led to his injuries.

Sean Mace was reading and napping beneath the Bunya Pines, also known as false Monkey-Puzzle trees, during a visit to San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park in October 2014, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.

The seed pods dropped by those pines can grow in excess of 10 to 14 inches (25-35 cm) in diameter and weigh more than 30 to 40 pounds (14-18 kg), and park staff who planted the non-indigenous trees decades ago knew there was a high risk of injury to anyone below them, the complaint said

Mace, a U.S. Navy veteran, was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital where he had two rounds of surgery for traumatic brain injury. The lawsuit said he had been left with "severe and likely irreversible cognitive defects."

It seeks monetary damages for personal injury and losses caused by "the negligent or wrongful act of omission of any employee," and names the park, the U.S. government, the National Park Service and the Department of Interior as defendants.

It alleged that inaction by workers "created a hidden hazard or peril" for visitors to the park, and that a safety barrier was only erected around the Bunya Pine grove in the northeastern part of the park after Mace suffered his injuries.

The lawsuit was filed last month but first reported on Monday by the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper said Mace, who it reported was in his 50s, had chosen the waterfront park to try to find a quiet spot to watch the Blue Angels air show during last year's Bay Area Fleet Week.

The National Park Service said it did not comment on ongoing litigation.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Peter Cooney)