Blitz, USA, a gas can manufacturer, recently filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it is closing its doors, citing frivolous lawsuits as the reason. The company faced product liability lawsuits filed by attorneys representing plaintiffs permanently injured or who have suffered the loss of a loved one because this company failed to provide a fix for a proven, common and very dangerous problem with its can design.
As manufactured, the cans were susceptible to “flashback” explosions caused when gasoline vapors outside the cans ignited and followed the vapor trail back into the container. But, there was an easy fix – adding a wire mesh covering called a flame arrestor, which would prevent flames from entering the can. Yet, year after year and injury after injury, Blitz USA refused to add the flame arrestor to its can, which would have cost $1.00 or less – an amount easily passed on to the consumer. They refused to fix the product because, if they had, it would have been an acknowledgement that their product was flawed. So, rather than admit blame and add the fix, the company let people continue to be seriously burned or die.
Now, 117 people will lose their jobs because this company refused to put safety ahead of profits. But it’s worth noting that the company was sold for $9.5 million to a Canadian plastics manufacturer that also produces gas cans, and who plans to hire about 80 people, many from the old company. Let’s hope this new company, Scepter, uses a flame arrestor in its product. Surely they must know that consumer advocates will be watching.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign for tort reform to stop products liability lawsuits such as the ones against Blitz, USA. But the plaintiffs’ lawyers aren’t the bad guys here. Companies such as Blitz, USA, who simply refuse to acknowledge common misuses by consumers, plan and take steps to make their products safer, or accept responsibility after accidents happen, are the true bad guys. Consumers need a voice willing to stand up to manufacturers when injustices occur and innocent people are hurt or killed. Unfortunately, companies cannot always be trusted to do the right thing, no matter if it’s head-scratchingly easy. Fortunately, product liability lawyers are fierce consumer advocates that take justice very seriously.