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House Fires: Don’t Let Smoke Cloud Who’s Liable

House fires are the most common structure fires in the U.S. In fact, 92 percent of civilian deaths in structure fires happen in homes.

The main house fire starters: cooking equipment and smoking materials. Most house fire deaths, however, are due to smoking materials.*

But causation is not as clear as the numbers seem to indicate. Not every mishap with a match or grease fire ends up engulfing an entire house. There are often many factors that make a spark a bonfire, factors that are less obvious to investigators who are pressed for time and ready to move to the next case.

Consider This House Fire Scenario

The nightlight overheats in the socket, melting the plastic. The heat from the dripping plastic ignites the wall-to-wall carpet. The carpet fire snakes down the stairs and reaches the polyurethane-stuffed living room furniture. Polyurethane products, called fuel packages by fire investigators, burn and the living room is soon ablaze. Smoke detectors – all the same brand – fail.

The family and pets escape the house because someone driving by saw flames through the windows. But not before both children are burned badly enough to be airlifted to the nearest burn center.

Fire fighters put out the fire and police and investigators determine there was no foul play. None of the experts there determined the root cause or understand the path of the fire. Insurance adjusters declare the losses and put the rest of the family in an extended-stay hotel, and the dogs go to a kennel until it’s decided whether to rebuild or move.

This is when a veteran product liability attorney can fill a big void.

The first thought of where things broke down is the smoke detectors. They failed to sound the alarm despite being brand-new. Why did the living room furniture melt and other tables and appliances did not?

Except in cases of arson, house fires are always unintentional and often due to human error. What the veteran lawyer knows is that mistakes are amplified by defective products. However, in this case, it quickly becomes clear there’s no liability on the part of this family.

The legal team visits the scene, surveys the remains and sifts through the detritus for evidence. Lawyers, their paralegals, staff and investigators start to put together a puzzle that explains what happened and which party or parties are responsible.

In the above example, the night light, purchased recently at a popular discount store, was recalled a month earlier. Consumers complained that the batteries melted and the devices caught fire.

The smoke detectors’ sensors failed. The firm’s investigator obtains several new ones that were part of the same lot manufactured on the same line on the same work shift. They don’t work either. This signals the smoke detector maker might have shipped a bad batch.

The attorney has pieces of the sofa remains tested and looks into the manufacturer’s assembly process. It turns out the furniture maker used a type of material U.S. safety officials banned 10 years ago. The stuffing that met federal safety standards costs more and cut the profit per unit.

What seemed at first a mysterious accident is a solid legal case of negligence against at least three companies. The claims can be resolved through settlement or trial. Good product liability attorneys with trial experience will know what option is best for the clients.

Experienced Trial Attorneys for Catastrophic Injury and Burn Victims

Harris Lowry Manton has secured scores of verdicts and settlements for catastrophic injuries, including a number of burn cases. Our partners and staff personally handle each case and do whatever is necessary to bring about a successful resolution.

If you or a loved one have been burned by a household product or experienced losses or injuries in a house fire and need legal consultation, Harris Lowry Manton can help. Call us toll-free at 404-961-7650 or fill out our online contact form.
*House fire statistics and causation information are from the National Fire Protection Association.

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