Defective Design in a Propane Heater Allegedly Leads to Severe Burn Incident

This case study explores a severe burn incident allegedly caused by a defectively designed portable propane heater.

ByZach Barreto


Published on January 31, 2024

Portable propane heater

Case Overview

This case study delves into an incident where an individual sustained severe burns due to a fire outbreak in their home. The fire was allegedly triggered by a portable propane heater, which the plaintiff had activated to warm their bathroom. In no time, the room was consumed by flames, resulting in substantial injuries for the individual involved.

It is contended that the heater or its tank was defectively designed, leading to this catastrophic event. An expert witness with extensive knowledge of propane heaters was sought to inspect the device and ascertain if it indeed caused the failure.

Questions to the Fire Safety expert and their responses


Could you describe your experience inspecting portable propane heaters or similar products for defects?

I have amassed considerable experience consulting on and inspecting a variety of propane-fueled devices. These include portable salamander/torpedo heaters, propane grills, and propane generators. I've also been involved in safety analysis projects that required flammability testing with propane-fueled gas grills.


What are the most pertinent factors you would need to consider to determine if the portable propane heater was the cause of the incident?

To conclusively determine whether the portable propane heater was at fault for this incident, I would require more information about the model and type of heater. However, generally speaking, key factors to consider include potential design flaws, manufacturing defects, improper usage instructions, or lack of adequate safety features.


Have you ever reviewed a similar case? If yes, please elaborate.

Yes, I have previously worked on a similar case where a propane heater installed in a fireplace started a fire that damaged the recreational room of a house.

About the expert

This expert is a seasoned mechanical engineer with specialized knowledge in safety analysis, combustion safety, explosions, and fire. They hold both a BS and an MBA from a prestigious university and are a licensed engineer in several states. Currently, they serve as a senior consultant at an engineering consulting firm.

Expert headshot



About the author

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto is a distinguished professional in the legal industry, currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Research at the Expert Institute. With a deep understanding of a broad range of legal practice areas, Zach's expertise encompasses personal injury, medical malpractice, mass torts, defective products, and many other sectors. His skills are particularly evident in handling complex litigation matters, including high-profile cases like the Opioids litigation, NFL Concussion Litigation, California Wildfires, 3M earplugs, Elmiron, Transvaginal Mesh, NFL Concussion Litigation, Roundup, Camp Lejeune, Hernia Mesh, IVC filters, Paraquat, Paragard, Talcum Powder, Zantac, and many others.

Under his leadership, the Expert Institute’s research team has expanded impressively from a single member to a robust team of 100 professionals over the last decade. This growth reflects his ability to navigate the intricate and demanding landscape of legal research and expert recruitment effectively. Zach has been instrumental in working on nationally significant litigation matters, including cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, toxic chemical exposure, and wrongful death, among others.

At the Expert Institute, Zach is responsible for managing all aspects of the research department and developing strategic institutional relationships. He plays a key role in equipping attorneys for success through expert consulting, case management, strategic research, and expert due diligence provided by the Institute’s cloud-based legal services platform, Expert iQ.

Educationally, Zach holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and European History from Vanderbilt University.

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