Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Gas containers and products liability lawsuits

There are at least two sides to every issue. Recently a lobbying group has been using a 30 second commercial essentially blaming the closing of a business on products liability lawsuits that have been filed in court.

The commercial suggests that tort reform was needed because the 117-employee business came to a close because of lawsuits alleging defects in the red plastic gasoline containers that Blitz USA manufactured. Yet such containers have been at the center of dozens of individuals being injured or killed when the containers exploded.

We hear the same arguments made by companies in Pennsylvania as well as the rest of the nation. Certainly, there is no such thing as a fool-proof product, and almost every product can cause injury if used incorrectly. And there are individuals that do assume the risks of using a product that presents certain dangers when such individuals fully understood the risks that were being undertaken.

Yet companies are being unrealistic in believing that every injury was the fault of the user, or that we can assume that every injured individual was at fault without first hearing the evidence of these cases at trial. The only way we can know for certain if such a product is defective is to have the evidence heard with attorneys from both sides making their client's case.

Though Blitz labeled a number of lawsuits filed against it as frivolous, one law professor questioned such an assertion when the company settled many of these matters instead of taking its chances at trial. Blitz had been sued 62 times since 1994, but only two of these matters actually went to trial.

There have been a number of lawsuits filed against the company where plaintiffs were seriously injured, and that there was no proof that the gas cans were at anytime exposed to an open flame. Yet despite the company's claims, a new Blitz factory may be opening soon elsewhere - suggesting that the products liability have not taken as great of a toll on the company as alleged.

Source: The New York Times, "A Factory's Closing Focuses Attention on Tort Reform," by Clifford Krauss, Oct. 4, 2012

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
20 Stanwix Street, Seventh Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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