Articles Posted in Burn Injuries

Plaintiffs Lenny and Tracy Chapman filed a lawsuit against Hiland Partners GP Holdings LLC, et al. who owned and operated a natural gas plant in North Dakota. Missouri Basin offers trucking services to gas companies in North Dakota. Hiland entered into a Master Service Contract (Hiland MSC) with Missouri Basin in 2008 whereby Missouri Basin, as “Contractor,” agreed to perform various services for Hiland.

As part of the agreement, Missouri Basin agreed to “indemnify, defend and save harmless Hiland Group . . . from and against any and all claims, demands, judgments, defense costs, or suits . . . in any way, directly or indirectly, arising out of or related to the performance of this Contract.”  The Hiland MSC also included an Oklahoma choice-of-law provision.

On Oct. 18, 2011, Hiland requested Missouri Basin to remove water from condensation tanks at the Watford plant. Missouri Basin contacted B&B Heavy Haul LLC who sent the plaintiff Lenny Chapman to the gas plant. Chapman arrived shortly after midnight.  He and an employee of Hiland began connecting the tank to the B&B truck that Chapman was driving. An explosion occurred and Chapman was seriously injured.

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West Side Salvage had insurance coverage from RSUI Indemnity that included $12 million in liability insurance and a secondary level of $11 million in coverage. The underlying lawsuit involved the injuries to John Jentz and Robert Schmidt who were severely injured when a grain elevator exploded. ConAgra was the owner of the storage grain elevator and hired West Side Salvage to eliminate explosive hazards. When Jentz and Schmidt sued ConAgra and West Side, ConAgra sued the independent contractor.

During trial, it seemed that the defense witnesses were ineffective. There was a “scramble” to settle the case.

“It is clear from the record that every attorney who worked on this case thought at one time or another that there should have been a way to settle the case,” wrote Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Reagan. “Emails and letters during the trial showed the insistence of various parties on finding a way to settle, and the deposition testimony and declarations of lawyers reflect almost a sense of remorse that settlement never was achieved in the underlying litigation.”

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Juan Suarez used Goof Off, an extremely flammable product made by the defendant W.M. Barr & Co., to remove paint from a basement floor. While he was removing the paint, a fire erupted in the basement and severely burned him. Suarez and his wife sued W.M. Barr claiming it chose not warn and for failing by producing a defective product design under Illinois law. After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Barr, the Suarezes appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The appeals panel concluded that the district judge appropriately rejected the Suarezes’ failure-to-warn claim. The warning label on the Goof Off can adequately identified the product’s principal hazards, as well as the precautionary measures to be taken while using the product.

However, the appeals panel reversed and remanded the district court’s rejection of the Suarezes’ design defect claims under both strict liability and negligence. The Suarezes have adequately shown that the fire may have been caused by static sparks created when Juan agitated Goof Off with a brush, as the warning label instructed.

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A jury in Georgia entered a $150 million verdict to the family of a four-year-old child killed in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that exploded and burst into flames after being rear-ended. The verdict was entered against Chrysler, which is the manufacturer of Jeeps. The trial took place in Decatur County, Georgia. The jury concluded that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard for human life in selling the family a 1999 Jeep with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle.

The Jeep was being driven by the boy’s aunt when it was hit from behind by a pickup truck in March 2012. The fuel tank leaked, engulfed the Jeep in flames and killed the young boy.

This verdict came down nearly two years after Chrysler compromised with the Federal Safety Agency. Chrysler agreed to a scaled-down recall of some of the older model Jeeps that have rear-mounted gas tanks. The gas tanks were placed in these Jeep models in a way that provides little protection when hit from behind; this makes them susceptible to punctures and deadly fires.

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Amarjit Khunkhun was a 43-year-old truck driver when he was found burned to death in the cab of his truck owned by his employer, GMG Trucking of Fresno, Calif. Khunkhun was survived by his wife and three children. The state fire investigators found that the fire started inside the cab and concluded that Khunkhun’s use of a portable stove might have caused the fire. No stove or propane tanks were found in the cab during the investigation.

Khunkhun’s family, with the assistance of attorneys Bill Robins, Hector Longoria, Mohinder S. Mann and Gruinder S. Mann, filed a lawsuit against GMG Trucking and its owners. The family’s attorneys also hired a fire cause-and-origin expert. That investigation showed the fire started beneath the truck, not by a stove or propane tanks. A truck mechanic expert determined that transmission fluid had leaked from the truck’s transmission, where it was ignited by the cab’s exhaust system and other hot components. Because of the fire underneath the cab, carbon monoxide vapors leaked into the cab where Khunkhun was left unconscious, and then the truck cab burst into flames resulting in Khunkhun’s death.

The lawsuit brought against GMG Trucks and its owners alleged negligent maintenance and inspection of the trucks. The family alleged that the owners were aware of the transmission leak in the tractor, but chose not to repair it in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

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Pengxuan Diao rented a converted garage. An employee of Southern California Gas Co. arrived while Diao was sleeping to perform maintenance. The gas company employee opened a gas valve that activated an uncapped gas line running to the garage where Diao was sleeping. The Southern California Gas Co. employee left the property without ensuring that the line was free of leaks.

A leak in the gas line caused gas to accumulate in the garage. Two hours after the leak began, Diao awoke and lit a cigarette, which triggered the gas explosion.

Diao, age 24, suffered second and third-degree burns over more than 20% of his body, including his head, torso, arms and right leg. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury from lack of oxygen, the concussive force of the explosion and from the carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Khalil Bell and his mother, Kimberly Street, lived in a Chicago area apartment. On March 10, 2008, the heat in their apartment was off. To warm the apartment, she turned on the stove and put pots of water on the burners to create steam. After the water had reached the boiling point, she took the pots off the stove.

According to her deposition testimony, one burner was left on and uncovered when she went to take a shower. While Street was showering, her son Khalil, who was living with her, walked into the kitchen. When he did so, his shirt caught on fire burning him severely. On behalf of Khalil Bell, a minor, Street filed a lawsuit against the landlady and building manager, Helen Bakus and Nimo Rasho.

The lawsuit alleged that the building owner, Bakus, and the building manager, Rasho, had been notified about the unsafe placement of the stove in the apartment and about the lack of heat in the apartment. Street testified at her deposition that neither of the problems were remedied.

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Allen Plyler had purchased and installed a Whirlpool microwave oven for his home. Seven years later, in October 2006, Plyer used the microwave to heat up some food. Eight hours later, Plyer was awakened by a fire that began in the microwave. He tried to put out the fire but suffered physical and emotional injuries.

As a result of his injuries, Plyler filed a lawsuit against Whirlpool claiming strict product liability and negligent recall. At trial, the Whirlpool global product safety director testified about the defect in some microwaves that Whirlpool had recalled. The corporate product safety director testified that the microwave would catch fire only if it contained food splatters and was running immediately before the fire. Plyler testified at trial that the microwave was clean and wasn’t in use before the fire started.

The jury found in favor of Whirlpool on both the claim for strict product liability and negligent recall; Plyler moved for a new trial. The federal magistrate judge who considered the post-trial motion for a new trial concluded that a rational jury could have accepted the product safety director’s testimony, combined with Plyler’s testimony about the state of the microwave, and could conclude that Whirlpool was not responsible for Plyler’s injuries. The court also noted that the jury could have reasonably rejected Plyler’s argument that Whirlpool should have made additional efforts to notify him of the recall.

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A BP gas station was having its above-ground storage tank filled with gasoline by a petroleum company and its driver. David Cowles, 61, was the delivery driver for a petroleum company filling the storage tank at the BP gas station when one of the tanks overflowed. The gasoline vapors ignited and a massive explosion erupted. Cowles suffered second and third-degree burns, including severe burns to his arms. He was hospitalized for weeks in a burn unit and required multiple debridement and skin-graft surgical procedures.

Cowles filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the gasoline station, claiming that it had chosen not to use an accurate method for measuring its gasoline inventory. Usually underground gasoline tanks are measured by a long stick inserted in the tank opening to determine the gasoline levels.

During the discovery process of the case, Cowles learned that the gas station calculated its inventory using “net volume” method, which is used in the industry for purchasing gasoline; it is determined by the volume of gas at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Gasoline expands with heat.

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