Couple sues O.C. hotel over water balloon N.J. pair seeks damages after being struck from balcony

September 18, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

A New Jersey couple has sued an Ocean City hotel, charging that it negligently permitted two of its guests to throw a water balloon from a balcony in 1994, knocking the husband to the ground.

The federal suit, which also names two Pennsylvania women and the owners of the hotel as defendants, says Frederick Wacker of Forked River, N.J., suffered "serious, painful and permanent injuries, shock to his nerves and nervous system [and] great mental and emotional suffering and anguish" as a result of the incident.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Friday, seeks $500,000 damages from each of the defendants.

According to the suit, Frederick Wacker was retrieving an article from the trunk of his car in the parking lot of the Best Western Flagship on the Boardwalk and 26th Street in September 1994 when the two women, Maria Emanski and Deborah Fine of Mountain Top, Pa., launched water balloons at the couple from a balcony of the four-story hotel.

One balloon landed on the trunk door, causing the door to hit Wacker in the back of the neck and force him to the ground, the complaint alleges.

Josephine Wacker was splashed, causing her serious injuries, nervous shock and emotional suffering, according to the suit.

The complaint alleges that Emanski and Fine had been throwing water balloons at passers-by for hours and that the hotel's management knew or should have known what they were doing.

Matthew Zimmerman, an attorney for the Wackers, said he could not discuss the nature of his clients' injuries except to say that "it's not a bump-on-the-head situation."

He did not give the Wackers' ages but described them as "older people."

Zimmerman, a partner in the Baltimore firm of Israelson, Salsbury, Clements & Bekman, said the incident had resulted in criminal charges as well as the civil suit.

Court records show that Emanski, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was found guilty of assault in May 1995 and was given probation before judgment and 40 hours of community service.

She was also ordered to pay restitution to the Wackers, but Zimmerman said none has been received.

A warrant was issued for Fine, but court records indicate it was never served.

In the civil suit, the hotel's parent company, Harrison Inn-Sixty-Six Inc. of Ocean City, and its owners, John H. and Hale Harrison, also are named as defendants. A spokesman for the hotel and its owners said they were unaware of the lawsuit and would not comment.

Neither Emanski, who was said by an aunt to be away at college, nor Fine could be reached for comment.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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