Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Debate Parade Plans Many Concerned about Liability Risks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Debate Parade Plans Many Concerned about Liability Risks

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

After listening to a few dozen frustrated River Road residents Thursday evening, Orange Park officials and leaders of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce agreed to give more thought to plans for a parade down River Road during the third annual American Pie Fourth of July celebration this year.

Meeting in the Moosehaven Auditorium, residents said their greatest concern is that visitors to the Fourth of July event could injure themselves on private property and sue the homeowner.

They wanted a guarantee that the town or the chamber would absorb any potential damages should a lawsuit arise during the chamber-sponsored and town-approved event.

"When the town sanctions and an outside organization invites thousands of people [to a neighborhood], that's something that is not there on a daily basis," said Hank Racer, a River Road resident and one of the organizers of the meeting.

"You should indemnify us," he said. "You have to accept part of the risk, and that risk is being imposed upon us."

Racer's words prompted applause from the audience, some of whom said they were flatly opposed to a parade in front of their homes along the St. Johns River. Others said they weren't against a parade per se, but did feel it would unjustifiably increase their risk of being sued.

Only 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to be attracted by a parade, but officials anticipate 25,000 to 30,000 visitors will attend the Fourth of July celebration in the afternoon and evening to watch fireworks over the St. Johns River.

Chamber leaders said they would research the issue to see if the chamber could purchase additional liability insurance to indemnify the private property owners. But Lance Malcolm, membership chairman, wasn't optimistic that such insurance could be obtained.

Lloyd's of London, Malcolm said, may be the only insurance company that might be willing to underwrite an insurance policy covering all 40-something residences along River Road.

The chamber's general liability insurance policy does not cover injuries or damages on private property, Malcolm said, because, "We're not inviting people to come onto private property. …

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