OCEAN CITY, Md.— An unattended beach umbrella broke free from its Ocean City sand one Sunday afternoon in 2018, flying into the air and striking a nearby beachgoer.
Now she’s taking the resort town and rental outfit to court.
Jill Mendygral filed a lawsuit June 3 against Ocean City and 85 ‘N Sunny, the rental company on 16th Street, for two separate counts of negligence in relation to the events of July 22, 2018. The Pennsylvania resident’s lawsuit alleges their negligence led to her umbrella impalement.
It all happened on the first day of her vacation.
The National Weather Service had recorded wind gusts as high as 17 mph by 2:53 p.m. Mendygral was among many lounging on the beach, her lawsuit explains, when, without warning, a loose beach umbrella swung into the air and “violently stabbed” her in the chest.
That summer, Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said the call came in just after 3 p.m. near 54th Street and the beach. The wooden pole had pierced Mendygral’s skin in the upper chest. Both lifeguards and other beachgoers worked to secure the umbrella so it would not continue blowing around, Arbin told Delmarva Now.
Firefighters cut the pole after they arrived at the scene.
Taken by ground and transfered to a Maryland State Police helicopter, Mendygral was transported by air to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, now TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, to be treated for injuries that were deemed not life-threatening.
By the following day, she was in stable condition. The then-46-year-old was the first the hospital had seen in at least 10 years to be injured by a beach umbrella, the medical center told Delmarva Now.
Patrick J. McLaughlin, resident agent listed with 85 ‘N Sunny in the lawsuit, told Delmarva Now he had no comment on the matter.
“We have received a copy of the suit papers, but the city has not yet been formally served,” town attorney Bruce Bright of Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy & Almand P.A. said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We are aware of the incident described in the Complaint, and our position is and has been that the Town has no liability in the matter. We will formally respond to the Complaint and defend the case accordingly. But, for now, we have no other comment.”
Similar events have occurred in other U.S. beach towns.
According to Mendygral’s lawsuit, the incident resulted in multiple, severe injuries: from the chest wound, to radiating back pain, gross hematuria, pelvic pain, reoccurring numbness down the right arm, fevers, anxiety, depression and more.
“As a direct result of the aforesaid injuries, and the natural consequences thereof, Plaintiff has sustained a loss of everyday pleasures and enjoyment of life and will continue to suffer the same for an indefinite period of time into the future,” court documents read.
The lawsuit asserts both Ocean City and the rental company allowed a “dangerous and hazardous condition to exist,” while having knowledge of such a condition.
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The suit says defendants failed to warn of the hazard by “leaving umbrellas opened during unsafe conditions or otherwise failing to take necessary precautions” and disregarded Mendygral’s safety. It also says the pair failed to inspect the beach while a wind advisory was in effect.
In each count of negligence levied, Mendygral seeks damages in excess of $75,000, and her complaint requests a jury trial.