Defective Water Heater Causes Explosion

    Product Liability Expert WitnessThis case takes place in Arizona and involves a residential hot water heater that exploded immediately after installation, causing serious injuries as well as thousands of dollars of property damage. The Plaintiff in this case is a woman and her family, who owned a home in a remote area of Montana that they intended to use as a vacation property. The house had undergone extensive renovations after it was purchased by the Plaintiff, including an overhaul of its plumbing system. On the day of the incident in question, the Plaintiff was preparing to turn on the hot water system, which was new from the factory and had just recently been installed. The house was equipped with external propane tanks for heating and cooking, which were also newly installed and filled. After testing to make sure there were no leaks in the propane tanks or lines, the Plaintiff returned to the house to ignite the burner under the water heater tank. When the Plaintiff activated the pilot light, an explosion occurred, causing third-degree burns as well as serious structural damage to the house. After an inspection of the property, it was determined that the house would need to be demolished and rebuilt. The Plaintiff claimed that she followed all of the necessary steps to ignite the heater safely, and that the explosion was caused by the lack of pressure testing or a defect in the unit’s design and/or manufacture.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please discuss your background in working with hot water heaters and propane tanks.
    • 2. Can you determine the cause of accident in this case?

    Expert Witness Response E-008969

    I having been a fire chief across the globe for over 30 years, and as a result  I am very familiar with fires and explosions, especially as they relate to gas and propane. This specific experience come from my work in the field, where I had the opportunity to investigated over 200 incidents of propane explosions throughout the United States. I’ve performed extensive tests on propane and gas tanks, and currently consult on fire safety and explosions throughout the country. In cases like these, the culprit is usually a slow lead in a gas line within the home near the unit. This causes a buildup of flammable gas on the floor, which can remain undetected by persons in the room under the right conditions. When the Plaintiff in this instance went to lite the unit, it likely caused the gas accumulation in the confined space to ignite as well. These leaks can come from compromised seals on the gas lines that attach to the unit, which would support the Plaintiff’s claim that the unit was defectively manufactured.

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