Many people think that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA, or other governmental agencies will protect our families from dangerous and defective products and drugs. The truth is that these agencies, although large, are underfunded and not as effective as we would hope they could be. The truth is that the Civil Justice System, meaning lawsuits and trial lawyers are on the front lines, trying cases and bringing dangerous products into the public consciousness often long before any governmental agency begins to stir. Lawsuits in this country and jury verdicts have saved thousands of lives. Tort Reformers would have you believe that all large jury awards are frivolous and that all verdicts are runaway verdicts. The truth is that it is very hard to prove what you need to win a lawsuit, in front of 12 unbiased, skeptical jurors, people who are not necessarily receptive to what trial lawyers are trying to argue. Trial attorneys act as a voice for those that would otherwise be unheard in our civil justice system. Recently, the revelation of the deadly nature of a common household item has shown just how important it is to have an attorney ready to fight for you against big corporations in court.
Found in garages nationwide, individual red gas cans have been a staple of the home owner, used to fill up lawn mowers, edgers, and other home repair appliances that require gasoline. But these little plastic gas cans may be bombs in the making.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission confirms that 1,200 people have gone to the hospital after their red gas cans exploded, causes burns, injuries, and in some cases, even comas, and the deaths of children.
Lab tests conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives showed that, under certain conditions, gas cans are able to explode, even under regular temperatures, sometimes with only small amounts of gas in the container. Deadly explosions do not require crazy antics by the consumer to create the explosion. Collected fumes in a basement or friction have been causes of tragic gas can explosions.
Attorneys who have litigated exploding gas can cases know that these cans are bombs waiting to be set off.
In lawsuits against the gas can company Blitz, which was the largest manufacturer of such cans, the courts found that a simple flame arrestor (a mesh strainer installed in the can which cost less than a dollar each), could have greatly reduced or eliminate this potential explosion danger.
If it wasn’t for attorneys advocating for the victims of these gas can explosions, this issue may have never come to light, and exploding gas cans may have continued to endanger consumers across the nation. Blitz has gone through bankruptcy and fired all of its employees. Do they admit to putting profits before safety and to cutting corners when they knew they could make a safer product for pennies more per gas can? Do they admit that they had notice that men women and children were suffering terrible burns or death that could have been prevented by a simple safety device? No, Blitz blames their woes not on greed and inhumanity, not on their hiding of information from the government and the court, but on the trial lawyers who caught them and made them accountable. Blitz was made accountable and they had to shut their doors. I ask you, if you knew your neighbor the electrician was cutting corners on his work and that he was endangering his customers and their families, would you want your neighbor to be able to continue doing the same bad work? The answer is no. You would want a stop put to your neighbor’s corner cutting immediately. So, what is the difference between my example of your neighbor and Blitz? Well, it has been proven in several American courts of law that Blitz is responsible for horrific injuries and deaths, and they have been made to shut down. Seems fair to me. Isn’t there a better response from Blitz than let’s blame the trial lawyers?
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.