Oregon Man Suffers Severe Burns, Files New Blitz Gas Can Lawsuit
In 2012, Blitz USA, once a leading manufacturer of portable plastic gas cans in the United States, closed its manufacturing plant in Miami, Oklahoma. Management claimed that increasing litigation over the alleged defective design of their cans had forced them into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Indeed, over 50 lawsuits were filed against the company, with plaintiffs claiming the gas cans caused explosions, severely burning and sometimes killing consumers. Many of the cases named Wal-mart as a co-defendant, because they were the largest seller of the cans.
In December 2013, Wal-Mart and Blitz agreed to a proposed $161 million fund to settle all remaining unresolved cases concerning the defective cans, with Wal-mart contributing about $25 million of that amount.
Now, according to The Register Guard, a new Blitz gas can lawsuit has been filed in Oregon. It raises concerns that many people are still at risk of injury from these cans, and that Wal-mart has not yet seen the end of this issue.
Oregon Man Allegedly Burned by Blitz Gas Can
On January 22, 2015, Oregon resident Daniel Rowlett filed a lawsuit against Wal-mart, claiming the company sold him a defective product. According to his complaint, he was trying to start a fire in a burning barrel in October 2013. He believed he had failed to get the fire going, so he decided to pour some gasoline into the barrel to make it easier.
Apparently there was something burning in the barrel, as the Blitz gas can exploded, spraying burning fuel onto Rowlett and burning over 45 percent of his body.
The gas ignited when the unseen flame in the barrel came into contact with fuel vapors. The fire jumped onto those vapors, traveling back up to the can and causing the explosion. Rowlett seeks $13 million for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Manufacturer Never Installed Available Safety Device
Rowlett and other plaintiffs who have sought compensation from Blitz and Wal-mart assert that gas can explosions could have been avoided with the installation of a device called a “flame arrestor.” Costing only about five cents, the arrestor fits in the spout of plastic gas cans and keeps the fuel from exploding.
The device works by filtering out a spark or flame. Similar to the screen in front of a fireplace, it helps prevent flames from getting into the can, where they may cause an explosion. Arrestors are already mandatory in gas cans used on industry work sites.
Despite reports of injuries, Blitz never installed the devices. Wal-mart had nothing to do with the design of the gas cans, but they did continue to sell them even after reports revealed people were severely burned and killed when the gas cans exploded. Plaintiffs involved in lawsuits against both companies claimed that Wal-mart should have done more to encourage Blitz to install the flame arrestors.
CPSC Calls for Flame Arrestors on All Gas Cans
In 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) noted that many gas cans had not yet incorporated flame arrestors, and called on the industry to design their products with this safety technology. They added that research had shown flammable vapors could exist in gas containers, and that these vapors could ignite and cause explosions under certain circumstances.
Since 1988, the CPSC has linked at least 11 deaths and more than 1,200 visits to hospital emergency rooms because of exploding gas tanks. Manufacturers continue to resist adding arrestors to their products, claiming that printed warnings on the cans alert consumers to the possibility of explosions, and arguing that such explosions occur only when consumers use the products incorrectly.
Blitz gas cans have exploded under a number of circumstances, however. In one case, for example, a man poured gasoline onto a pile of brush and then walked 20 feet away to set the can down. When he did so, static electricity created from the friction between his jeans and the can lit up a spark, which caused the can to explode, burning 75 percent of the man’s body.
In another case, a child accidently tipped over a Blitz gas can in the garage. Fumes traveled across the garage and were ignited by a water-heater pilot, after which they flashed back to the can, resulting in an explosion. The boy died from his severe burn injuries.
Consumers are warned to check the gas cans in their possession to be sure they have a flame arrestor.