Exploding Garden Light Engulfs Woman in Flames

    fire pitPlaintiff was at a family picnic and was sitting several feet away from her sister when her sister was adding gel fuel to a fire pit light. Without any warning, a torch-like directional flame originated from the defendant’s fire pit and the gel fuel bottle. The ignited fuel exploded into a fireball spreading to the surrounding area and engulfing plaintiff in flames.

    Plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries to treat third degree burns to her face and upper body and was in intensive care for months. Two men at the picnic suffered burns to their hands while trying to extinguish the flames.

    Plaintiff alleges the fire pit contained no warnings or instructions. She asserts claims of negligence, negligent manufacturing, negligent failure to warn, strict liability in tort, emotional distress, and loss of consortium causes of action against the manufacturer, distributor and retailer. A number of experts specialize in product liability and explosives were sought to opine on the issue.


    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Did the manufacture follow product safety guidelines?
    • 2. What requirements are there for reporting incidents to the Consumer Product Safety Commission?

    Expert Witness Response

    The defendant maker of the fire pit acted negligently and with knowing disregard for the safety of expected users of the product. The defendant failed to implement an appropriate and reasonable systemic approach to product safety assurance, as expected of manufacturers selling products in the United States. Defendants failed to report injury claims in a timely manner to the Consumer Product Safety Commission under Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act. They reported inaccurate and misleading information to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The manufacturer failed to inform retailers that sold the product that there were incidents, some involving serious injuries, associated with the product. Another incident reported to a retailer did not provide sufficient information to trigger a Section 15 report by the retailer. However, the retailer acted in a reasonable and prudent manner in alerting the manufacturer of the other incident.

    My opinions are held to a reasonable degree of certainty and are based on my:
    1. education, training, and experience;
    2. experiences at CPSC in carrying out the mission of the agency; and,
    3. review and consideration of various pleadings, produced documents, deposition testimony, visual evidence, and other items generated in or available as part of this litigation.

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