Gasoline is a highly flammable liquid that must be stored properly in order to reduce the chances of a fire. As consumers, we trust that the gas cans we use are safe and will protect us and our property from a fire. Unfortunately, some gas can manufacturers have fallen short in their duty to provide a safe product to their customers.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a gas can explosion, you should know that the manufacturer might be held accountable for the damages you’ve suffered. To learn more about your legal options, contact Bert Louthian to schedule a free consultation for a potential personal injury claim.
A Dangerous Defect in the Design and Build of Gas Cans
Most of us own a gas can; it’s probably plastic. If you have a yard and mow your own grass, or you own a portable generator, you may have more than one gas can. Many of us are comfortable using them to store and dispense gas for our equipment. But what most don’t know is that even when used normally, plastic gas cans occasionally become an exploding firebomb.
Sadly, many of these containers were designed – then built – with a serious defect which causes users to suffer devastating burns, even a wrongful death. But these terrible accidental injuries are easily avoided. All it takes is a slight change in the design of the gas can. But proper and appropriate warnings that tell users of the dangers of injury are also required, by law.
Why Some Gas Cans Pose a Threat to Consumers…
Here’s the danger. Fume buildup in the gas container can leak through the spout and come in contact with an external spark, triggering a flame that backs up into the can and causing the explosion. But placing an effective flame arrestor within the pour spout of the can is a simple fix.
An arrestor is a device that prevents flammable gas fumes from mixing with potential ignition sources – thereby preventing explosions. These simple devices have been used in gas cans for decades to prevent explosions. It would cost no more than 50 cents to add an arrestor to every new unit. They can also be easily installed into existing spouts.
Since the rising number of these explosive tragedies was reported in the media beginning in 2010, and the Centers for Disease Control then issued an alert, Congress has even stepped in, creating the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act in 2017 which is currently in committee. And still, the manufacturers continue to resist change, exposing themselves along with their distributors and retailers to further legal peril – and injuring more innocent victims.
Do You Have a Case?
There are a couple of external factors that expose the flaws in defective gas cans and cause them to explode. First, these explosions often occur in the coldest months of the year, December through March. Second, these explosions tend to be more common in the South.
If a gas can explosion shares these two factors, the explosion might be part of a larger trend, and anyone injured by the explosion should consider legal action. While these two characteristics might indicate that an explosion was due to faulty design, any gas can explosion is worth investigating to determine whether the manufacturer might be at fault.
Civil Claims and Defective Product Lawsuits against the Defendants and their Insurers
Wal-Mart (and other retailers), along with wholesale suppliers Blitz USA, Scepter, Midwest, and Wedco, have been named in a number of successful lawsuits by plaintiffs who were severely burned when these dangerous cans exploded while being used normally, for ordinary purposes, and as recommended.
At least 80 lawsuits have been filed against many members of this supply chain between 2004 and 2010. And though no one has counted recently, it’s reasonable to estimate that, over the past six years, the total number of lawsuits has reached at least 100. One supplier – Blitz USA – has already declared bankruptcy under the weight of its share of lawsuits, thanks largely to experienced personal injury attorneys.
The Costly and Lengthy Recovery after a Catastrophic Burn Injury
Explosive burn injuries are some of the most devastating and painful wounds a human can experience. They come with life-long consequences, such as infection, major surgeries and chronic pain. Some even involve amputations. It’s not unusual for worst-case medical costs to exceed a million dollars, not to mention the unbearable pain and suffering one must endure day after day.
How Expensive are Gas Can Explosion Injuries?
Two reasons for the rapidly increasing costs of treating serious burns are the high chances of many medical complications, and the need for highly-trained specialists.
Here are a few examples and general cost estimates for each.
- Over half of burn victims require psychological counseling – $75,000 in costs.
- About that same percentage suffers skin breakdown or fragile skin. Cost of treatment – $107,000 in costs.
- In over a third of the cases, infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and sometimes organ failure can add up to $120,000 of treatment costs.
- This same percentage of patients suffer failure of skin grafts or slowly healing wounds – up to $110,000 in additional costs.
Help For South Carolina Burn Victims
Premium catastrophic burn treatment is best found in one of the 123 burn centers sprinkled throughout the U.S. But of this number, only 60 are verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Burn Association. The closest of those 60 is the JMS Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, where most of the serious South Carolina burn victims are treated.
When a patient is in a specialized burn center for what will certainly be many months, the huge expense of keeping the victim’s supporting family members close to them is also a daunting experience – and expense. Those treated at JMS have come to rely on temporary lodging at the not-for-profit Chavis House, which also offers daily meals and transportation to and from the burn center – all free of charge.
Chavis assists patients upon their discharge too, with services related to the burn victim’s return to independent living. It is funded strictly through charitable contributions. Understanding what they do helps illustrate the tremendous costs in money and moral support that a catastrophic burn victim needs every day and why they must receive such high amounts of damage compensation.
How Victims of Gas Can Explosions in South Carolina Can Be Compensated
In a defective product case, there are two primary types of allegations that hold a manufacturer and all members of the supply and sales chain (wholesalers, distributors and retailers) liable for injury-related damages from a dangerous product. They are usually sued for defective product design or defective assembly (manufacturing) of the hazardous device.
But there is another way in which many of these gas can explosion cases can be pursued in South Carolina – strict liability. This means the product is inherently dangerous and should never have been made to begin with. When strict liability is used, the additional legal argument is that those in the supply chain failed to warn the public about this dangerous product by creating printed reading materials, warning labels, or a public relations campaign to advise their customers. This is called “failure to warn.”
Furthermore, there are a couple more elements of law that make a defective gas can civil suit more feasible. In South Carolina, we have strong retailer liability laws and a strict liability law which makes it easier to go after retailers who sell faulty products. This makes your quest for rightful and full damage compensation not nearly as problematic as it might be in another state.
Getting Compensation for Your Damages
The damages which injured gas can burn victims might be able to demand include:
- All medical bills (no matter how long or how high)
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- And others, including punitive damages if circumstances warrant.
If you or someone you care about has been seriously burned by an exploding gas can, or injured by any other defective product, the Louthian Law Firm has 80 years of experience helping injured South Carolinians seek fair and full justice. We’re committed to giving you the best legal representation possible. For a free consultation, call us today at 803-592-6231, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form.