Burn injuries are some of the most devastating types of injuries we see in our practice representing individuals and families of those injured or killed due to negligence — often in the context of worksite explosions, defective products, or related contexts. These injuries can be life-altering or deadly — especially in the context of second-and third-degree burns requiring skin grafts with associated disfigurement and long-term consequences like fatigue, cardiac overload or organ failure.
When businesses design or operate products that have potential burn hazards, we expect those businesses to make all reasonable efforts to protect their workers — and members of the public who consume their products or visit their businesses — against suffering a potentially-catastrophic burn injury. Unfortunately, businesses often fail in this regard, leading to some devastating results. Below are two examples involing clients we have represented and successfully prevailed in lawsuits against the businesses responsible:
Commercial Steam Burn Injury at Health Club
We recently represented a man who visited his health club, worked out, and then changed and walked into the steam room in the men’s locker room and sat down on the bench. Sometime later, he was found by another health club member lying unconscious with steam shooting onto both of his feet. Below is a slide from the animation we created, depicting what occured:
A key piece of information we learned during our investigation and litigation was that the steam head was installed and maintained 6 inches from the ground rather than 18 inches from the ground, per the steam system owner’s manual. We needed to prove that 12-inch difference was important in terms of the nature of our client’s burn injuries — and after conslutation with our various experts who conducted temperature measurements at different heights of the steam head and using published data on the steam/water temperature and skin exposure time, we were able to prove that had the defendant business installed and maintained the steam head 18 inches from the ground, our client’s injuries never would have occured:
In this case, we also maintained a theory of liability against the defendant business regaring their failure to warn — as they chose not to post a warning sign provided by the steam system manufacturer.
Our client suffered severe second- and third-degree burns to both of his feet, requiring multiple surgeries and significant pain and suffering and emotional distress. We were ultimately able to secure a settlement of $5.375 million for the burn injuries negligently caused by the defendant health club and steam room installer/servicer.
Extremely Dangerous Product Explosion Causing Burn Injuries to Homeowner
Another one of our cases involved severe burn injuries to a man who puchased a concrete sealer at a store open to the general public to. He was intending to stain and seal the concrete basement floor of his home, and the concrete sealer he purchased was marketed as appropriate for household use. He came home and began sealing his basement floor — and had nearly sealed the entire floor when all of a sudden there was an explosion. Unbeknownst to him, the vapors of the concrete sealer were extremely flammable and had traveled into his home’s utility room and were ignited by the pilot light of his water heater. My client suffered second- and third-degree burns to much of his body and spent several months in the hospital — having to undergo a number of skin grafts and other surgeries.
Once again, this case involved years of investigation and litigation — as well as consultation with a number of experts, including fire cause and origin, fire dynamics, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Warnings/Human Factors, burn treatment and recovery, and others. We ended up learning that this seemingly tragic “accident” was actually easily preventable had the defendant product manufacturer exercised reasonable care in its design, labeling, and marketing of the concrete sealer.
This is a case that actually required a jury trial. At trial, we showed the jury (through our experts and exhibits) that reasonably careful manufacturers of hazardous products follow a “hazard control hierarchy” to first attemp to “Design” away the hazard, then “Guard” against the hazard, and finally “Warn” of the hazard. Then we were able to prove to the jury that the defendant manufacturer violated each step of the hierarchy, using exhibits like this one:
With respect to the warning on the product, we showed the jury that the actual label on the product violated both the requirements of the CPSC in terms of what must be conveyed on an “extremely flammable” product like this one, as well as violating the principles of effective warnings. Below is one of the exhibits we used to show the actual label vs. what should have been included in a reasonably safe warning label:
The jury ended up fining in our client’s favor — essentially finding that this was an unreasonably dangerous product that was too flammable for indoor, household use and unsafely labeled — resulting in a $10.9 million jury verdict given the severe burn injuries to our client.
As these cases highlight, the profit incentive for businesses sometimes results in overlooking important safety precautions. When it comes to products with potential burn hazards, the failure of busineses to act reasonably careful can be catastrophic.
In potential cases involving burn injuries, it is critical to speak with attorneys who know how to properly and fully investigate and prosecute such claims. To speak with one of our burn injury lawyers, call us at 312-527-4500 or visit www.passenpowell.com.