A recent news report discussed the case of a woman from Salem, Oregon who successfully sued over a devastating fuel gel explosion. The 74-year-old Lillis Larson walked away with a $5.375 million settlement in the case and says she wants to use the episode to discuss the potential dangers of fuel gel products.
The accident happened in 2009 when Larson was standing near a food-warming tray at the Salem Art Fair and Festival. Unbeknownst to Larson, while she stood near the tray a volunteer at the festival decided to refill the empty fuel can with a two-liter bottle of fuel gel. As the volunteer opened the bottle, vapors were sucked up into the two-liter container causing the fuel gel to explode. Larson was severely burned, suffering second and third-degree burns over much of her body.
The problem is that an explosion involving fuel gel is actually much worse than an explosion involving something like gasoline. The difference is that fuel gel has a napalm-like consistency which sticks to surfaces, including people, and continues to burn. When the explosion occurred, flaming gel shot out of the bottle and covered Larson across her torso and neck. Another particularly dangerous aspect of fuel gel is that it is not easily put out with water.
Despite these dangers, Ecoflame marketed its fuel gel as “non-explosive” despite considerable evidence that it knew Ecoflame was explosive if exposed to fire. Larson’s attorney says that a desire to hold down prices caused the company to choose not to use a safety cap, a cheap metal piece that could have prevented this accident by not allowing the vapors into the fuel gel container. Larson’s attorney argued that the case was a classic example of a company putting a tiny increase in profits above the safety of innocent consumers.
Larson says the horrific incident left her recovering not only from her physical injuries, but also dealing with emotional trauma. She says that even being around an open flame sets off crippling bouts of anxiety and worry. For her injuries Larson received a $5.375 million settlement from Ecoflame, the manufacturer of the fuel gel. Though Ecoflame refused to admit fault under the terms of their settlement, this has not stopped others from calling for an investigation into the way fuel gel products are packaged and labeled.
Many experts believe the $5.375 million settlement is one of the largest yet arising from use of a fuel gel product. Just last year, nine manufacturers voluntarily recalled some of their fuel gel products at the request of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced that it had received dozens of complaints from injured consumers. The CPSC is in the midst of drafting new regulations to address fuel gel products.
Pope McGlamry P.C. is vigorously representing burn victims who have been burned as a result of fuel gel fires. If you or a loved one has been injured by exploding fuel gel, contact our Georgia personal injury law firm for a free evaluation of your claim.
Source: “Salem woman settles burn lawsuit against fuel company for $5.3 million,” by Anna Staver, published at StatesmanJournal.com.
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