Man Files Suit Seeking Damages From Federal Park After Pine Cone Crushes His Skull

11/06/2015 | Premises Liability

Sean Mace, a United State Navy veteran, filed a lawsuit against the United States government, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park seeking $5 million in damages following a crushing skull injury he sustained on October 12.

Mace was visiting the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at the Fort Mason Center to watch the Blue Angels air show. He sat under a bunya pine tree, which, according to the lawsuit, are thought to have been planted by park staff several years ago, as they are not native to the San Francisco area. Bunya pines grow large pine cones that can reach up to 40 pounds and 16 inches in diameter. As Mace sat beneath the tree, one of the pine cones broke loose, landing on his head and crushing his skull.

According to the court documents Mace filed, he suffered “traumatic brain injury, with severe and likely irreversible cognitive defects.” Mace’s attorney said Mace has undergone two surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain and skull, will likely need a third surgery, and suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident; Johnson also said Mace is completely dependent and will likely require lifetime care.

The lawsuit asserts that there were no warning signs, fences, or netting to prevent people from standing under the trees; the absence of these measures is purported to be in violation of several park policies which mandate the installation of warning signs “necessary for visitor safety.” ” First and foremost, the Park Service needs to do something to make sure this never happens again,” Johnson said. “This park is full of tourists and schoolchildren. Something needs to change.”