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Skateboarder Branded by Manhole Cover Sues

A woman who was branded with letters from the Consolidated Edison logo when she fell off a skateboard onto a searing hot manhole cover in Manhattan last year filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking unspecified damages from the utility.

Elizabeth C. Wallenberg, 27, was burned just above her buttocks and on her left arm when she fell off her skateboard onto a cover over a steam pipe at Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village shortly after midnight on Aug. 11, 2004, said her lawyer Ronald Berman. "It literally looked like a brand that had been applied by someone," Berman said about the burn marks left on Wallenberg's body.

He said she was treated for the injury in the Beth Israel Hospital emergency room and was released.

Wallenberg, then a Brooklyn resident who worked for Paper magazine, reportedly said she heard her skin sizzle and saw an "o" and an "n" from the hot cover impressed upon her body. Wallenberg has been told the scarring is permanent, Berman said.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, accused Con Ed of "negligence, carelessness, recklessness and culpable conduct" related to Wallenberg's injuries.

Court papers said Wallenberg, now a factory worker who lives in Portland, Ore., is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages because of Con Ed's "reprehensible and egregious failure and refusal ... to protect the public from this manifestly clear and present danger."

Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said he had no comment on the lawsuit.


41 Responses:

  1. gytterberg says:

    Some people pay good money for that kind of thing, and don't even have the story to tell about it after.

    There was another person burned on a manhole cover and 2 or 3 people electrocuted in a flood that same summer, which gave a lot of attention to this lawsuit. Although it says she only filed it Thursday?

  2. jesus_x says:

    You know, this is one I can actually agree with. Why the hell are manhole covers hot enough to BRAND someone? Unless she was somewhere she shouldn't have been (entirely possible if she was trying to find some cool new place to "thrash"), I think maybe a little recompense is order. Of course, some jury will award her 40 billion dollars, and a judge will reset it to a buck fifty, and I'll still be broke, so screw her.

    • jwjr says:

      Con Ed still delivers steam to some parts of Manhattan. They built the infrastructure way back when and never shut it down, and some customers still use it. This is the reason for the occasional vent pipe you find in the streets, spouting steam. Occasionally the pipes break or leak.

      Counter-intuitively, there are A/C systems that run well by using steam.

      • nonbinary says:

        Apparently if you heat ammonia it'll pull heat, so you can grab it from one place (inside) and take it elsewhere (outside) just like regular ol' ozone depleting freon. Though I've read this in several reputable places I still find it suspect. Heat=Cool? That's loony talk!

        • gytterberg says:

          In the days before electricity ice was made with ammonia. Ammonia changes phase readily, so you can mix it with water and let the ammonia evaporate out, taking heat with it, then compress and liquify it and do it over again. Ammonia was also used in home refridgerators, but it's toxic (to humans, as opposed to the ozone layer), so once haloalkanes like Freon showed up everybody switched.

          It's not heat=cool, it's evaporation=cool.

  3. 33mhz says:

    I'm surprised she isn't happier about it. That's, like, a lifetime supply of skater cred points.

  4. fantasygoat says:

    Unless you're Tony Hawk, I really don't think you should be skateboarding past 25.

  5. ConEd should sue Elizabeth C. Wallenberg for copyright infringement, or at least marketing without the company's permission.

  6. rosefox says:

    How could you not show the picture?

  7. tregoweth says:

    Shame it wasn't a manhole cover that read "SANITARY" or "GREASE."

  8. pihkal says:

    My girlfriend works for ConEd in the legal department so I get to hear all about their legal woes. Apparently the manhole covers do get hot. New York City has the countries most developed steam heating system. It's probablty a throwback from the late 19th century building boom. Anyway, the steam heating is a huge loss for ConEd, but they're required to provide it. Regardless, they put this semi-solid film on the top of the manholes that have the potential of getting hot. That's supposed to help disipate the heat. So when you see goo all over the top of the manhole on your walk into work...that's what it's for.

    ConEd just paid $11M to the dogwalker who was electrocuted in the East Village. Remember kids, electicity is dangerous. Given the overall condition of this city, I'm surprised people aren't electrocuted more often.

    P.S. Oddly enough, the Supreme Court in NY is pretty much the lowest court. Go figure.

    • snitrocket says:

      And here I thought that goo was to provide full employment for the Department of Street Juice.

      You know, those trucks that run around at night mixingthe day's grime with water to ensure even coverage.

      I heart NY even more now that I live here. San Francisco just can't hold a candle to the pure filth and general nuttiness of this place.

  9. wyndebreaker says:

    As someone who used to skate down the hills of San Francisco in the heyday of the late 80s, I can say that skating in the street has its risks, but being branded by manhole covers should not be one of them. That goes beyond road rash.

  10. violentbloom says:

    brands are the new tattoos, people pay good money for that kind of thing