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[whitespace] Campbell man's appeal is denied by U.S. court

Daniel Reed was run over by a car at 1996 Burning Man Festival

Campbell--A federal court ruled on Nov. 2, that a Campbell man injured at the Burning Man Festival in 1996, cannot hold the federal government liable.

Daniel Reed, 21, was severely injured in September 1996, when a car ran over the tent he was sleeping in at the Burning Man Festival. Reed alleges that he suffered severe, permanent brain damage and was left permanently disabled.

After the accident, Reed sued many different agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, according to his attorney, Michael Shea. Because the event was held on BLM land in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, Reed's suit said that the bureau should be held responsible.

He alleged the bureau was liable for approving a site plan that failed to segregate cars from tents; for failing to regulate the event; and for failing to require that the event's organizers warn participants of potential danger from camping in an area where vehicles had unrestricted nighttime access.

In December 1998, a federal judge ruled that the government was immune to the lawsuit due to federal statutes. Judges in the 9th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court agreed with this ruling, claiming that practicality required this immunity.

"Obviously, we felt that they should be responsible," Shea said. "But, that's what horse races and ballgames are made of. You have two differing viewpoints."

Lawyers representing the BLM were unavailable for comment.

Shea said that Reed has not decided whether to petition for rehearing, appeal the decision, or let the matter drop. Reed was unavailable for comment.

Shortly after the incident, Reed settled with organizers of the Burning Man Festival for an undisclosed sum. "He did enter into a settlement with Burning Man," Shea said. "But, he's disabled now and he can't work. I don't know how much that settlement will continue to serve him in 10 years."

The festival began in San Francisco in 1986 and moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, according to its promoters. In 1996, approximately 7,000 people participated in the festival, with an additional 4,000 onlookers, according to a report by the Pershing County sheriff's office cited in the court ruling.

The Journal of the Burning Man describes the event as "Disneyland turned inside out...People do not come to this event to be distracted from themselves, they come here to discover and distill what they uniquely are.

"We will not tell you what it means," The Journal continues. "For Burning Man is based on your immediate experience."

The festival also publishes a Survival Guide handout. In 1996, it warned, "All participants must take personal responsibility for their own survival, safety and comfort." It also cautioned participants to bring common sense, stating that "the desert is notoriously unkind to fools," and that "there are no roads, signs or street lights."

In conjunction with the settlement, Shea said, Burning Man has since instituted regulations to keep cars out of camping areas.
Steven Raphael

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