Exploding Gas Can Injures Child: Wal-Mart May Be On The Hook

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I read a fascinating story in the Torts Law Blog wherein Wal-Mart, based on their own training videos, knew or should have known of the potential danger of explosion in a particular gas can sold by them.  Ultimately, that gas can exploded when a 12 year old boy "poured gasoline from the container onto a pile of wet wood he had been trying to light, and the can exploded." 

From my perspective as a personal injury attorney who has handled many cases where injuries occur as a result of a faulty product (see, for example, The Case of the Exploding Wine Bottle), it is my opinion that manufacturers, as well as others in the chain of commerce (i.e., distributors, retailers), do not always fully explore the dangers of the products that they are hawking or, worse yet, do not fully disclose or warn of the dangers — and all of this is to the injurious detriment of the unsuspecting consumer.

Please read the story below.

Wal-Mart Video Archive Helpful in Products Suit

Consumerist has a post (based on a WSJ piece) about the second life of thirty years of videos made for Wal-Mart.  The company that did the work evidently retained the rights (oops on Wal-Mart) and Wal-Mart declined to pay as much as the company asked.  Now the company is selling access and it’s helped at least one plaintiffs’ lawyer:

Plaintiffs attorney Diane M. Breneman stumbled across the videos while working on a lawsuit she filed in 2005, on behalf of a 12-year-old boy, against Wal-Mart and the manufacturer of a plastic gasoline can sold in its stores. Her client was injured when he poured gasoline from the container onto a pile of wet wood he had been trying to light, and the can exploded. The lawsuit alleges that the containers are unsafe because they don’t contain a device that prevents flames from jumping up the spout and exploding.

Wal-Mart’s lawyers have argued in court filings that the retailer couldn’t have known that the product "presented any reasonable foreseeable risk…in the normal and expected use."

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Ms. Breneman says Flagler Productions located videos of product presentations to Wal-Mart managers in which executives gave parody testimonials about the same brand of gasoline can. In an apparent coincidence, one manager joked about setting fire to wet wood: "I torched it. Boom! Fired right up." In a separate skit, an employee is seen driving a riding lawn mower into a display of empty gasoline cans. A Wal-Mart executive vice president observing the collision jokes: "A great gas can. It didn’t explode." The tapes were made before the lawsuit was filed.

Ms. Breneman argues the footage provides evidence that the retailer could have foreseen the risk that customers would use the gas cans when starting fires. She says she plans to ask the Kansas City, Mo., federal court handling the case to allow the footage to be used as evidence. Wal-Mart’s lawyer on the case didn’t return calls seeking comment.

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One comment

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