The last thing on any consumer’s mind when purchasing household appliances is the question of whether the device poses a viable risk of destroying property or endangering lives. In a recent lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania, two plaintiffs are seeking compensation after malfunctioning dehumidifiers purchased from Heat Controller, Inc. resulted in a household fire in their home. The fire occurred in June of last year and the lawsuit was filed in December. It is currently alleged that poor quality control standards and the failure of Heat Controller, Inc. to properly inspect its products before placing them on the market are to blame for the damages suffered in the incident.
Case Removed to US District Court
Christopher Taylor and Nancy Strohm, the plaintiffs, are seeking over $175,000 as compensation following an estimate from their insurance carrier. The amount of compensation being sought exceeds the $75,000 threshold for federal jurisdiction and the case has been removed to the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania as a result, with proceedings beginning on January 30, 2015. At the moment, it is not known whether Heat Controller, Inc. has offered or would be open to an out of court settlement.
How Product Liability Cases Differ from Personal Negligence
In personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs are required to prove that the defendants caused them personal harm via an act of negligence— which is defined as any action or failure to act properly that has resulted in the injury of the other party. Intent is not required to prove negligence and the majority of defendants found negligent never intended to purposefully harm the victims. For example, a doctor never intends to bring harm to his or her patients but if he or she fails to act as any other doctor would and the deviation from the standard results in injury, the doctor is held liable.
Consumers are protected by laws that allow lawsuits to be filed against companies regardless of whether negligence was the influential factor in an accident that resulted in harm or property damage. It is the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that the products that they produce not only perform the functions advertised but also to do so without causing harm to those who use them. The only exception to this is if the consumer knowingly uses a device in an unsafe manner or ignores clear warnings issued regarding its safe operation.
Household Appliances and Fires
Appliances are not commonly regarded by consumers as a fire threat but are often the cause or a catalyst in household fires. Ways in which appliances can cause fires include defective wiring, components that short circuit, heating elements that get too hot, the use of combustible materials or defects that cause sudden surges in power or heat. The majority of household fires occur in the kitchen where most appliances which emit heat are located.
In the case of the two plaintiffs in Pennsylvania, defective components in a humidifier are suspected of causing the device to overheat and cause an uncontrollable fire. Before the fire was contained, approximately $175,000 in damage was done to the property and the personal items inside. It is the responsibility of Heat Controller, Inc. to own up to its failure to properly inspect its products before allowing them to reach store shelves and if found responsible, the company may be required to provide compensation for any losses incurred in the fire as well as any other financial burden or pain and suffering which may have resulted in the accident.