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Man injured by 16-pound pine cone suing for $5 million

By
Ben Hooper
A seed pod from an Araucaria bidwillii, or bunya pine, tree. Photo courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson/Wikimedia Commons
A seed pod from an Araucaria bidwillii, or bunya pine, tree. Photo courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson/Wikimedia Commons

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A $5 million lawsuit filed in San Francisco alleges a man taking a nap in a public park suffered a brain injury when a 16-pound pine cone landed on his head.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 4 in San Francisco federal court, alleges Washington state resident Sean Mace was napping under a tree in San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Oct. 12 of last year when a 16-pound seed pod, or pine cone, fell from a coniferous Araucaria bidwillii tree and landed on his head.

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The Araucaria bidwillii, native to Australia and better known as a bunya pine or false monkey puzzle tree, can grow seed pods measuring up to 16 inches in diameter and weighing up to 40 pounds.

Mace was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where doctors conducted surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain from internal bleeding. The lawsuit says he needed a second surgery five days later.

"This guy has an irreversible brain injury and he's only in his mid-50s," Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's had two surgeries already and he is going to need a third."

Court papers state Mace suffered "traumatic brain injury, with severe and likely irreversible cognitive deficits."

The lawsuit, which names the U.S. government, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, says there were no signs posted to warn visitors about the possibility of dangerous falling pine cones and no fences to keep park-goers away from dangerous areas.

The suit says warning signs and orange fences were installed after Mace's injury.

Johnson said he was unable to find a similar incident in researching the case.

"I've not found another case that is factually similar," Johnson told KNTV. "This is relatively novel."

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