Gas Can Lawsuits Continues to Take Toll on Blitz USA
As a consequence of the mounting product liability lawsuits that have been filed over design defects with gas cans manufactured by Blitz USA, which allege that the company failed to include simple safety features that could have prevented devastating burns and other injuries, the company has been forced to file for bankruptcy and is now closing it’s Oklahoma factory.
Blitz USA, which makes the vast majority of all gas containers currently sold in the United States, will close a factory in Miami, Oklahoma at the end of this month.
In a statement released by the company in June, the costs associated with the mounting gas can lawsuits was cited as a reason Blitz USA has been unable to reorganize and develop a viable business plan after filing for bankruptcy in November 2011.
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The litigation, which goes back at least four years, involves claims that the company put profits before consumer safety by failing to include available safety features, which could have protected users from fires and burns. Among the most common allegations of design defects in Blitz USA plastic gas cans are a lack of child resistant caps, a lack of closures that can reduce the risk of spills and a lack of flame arrestors in the spout.
Flamer arrestors are a simple feature, which usually costs under 50 cents to add to a container, but was left out of many of the gas cans that are the subject of lawsuits. They are designed with small holes within the gas can spout, which prevent flames from flashing back into the container. Such “technology” has been used for over 200 years, originally designed to prevent explosions among coal miners carrying lanterns while entering a pocket of gas within a mine. They are now commonly used in a number of products, including certain bottles of Bacardi Rum.
Blitz USA participated in a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) task group on flame arrestors in 2007.
According to allegations raised in a 2009 Blitz gas container lawsuit filed against the company, a flame arrestor would have prevented severe injuries suffered by three 20 year old men when a gas gan exploded, causing flames and burning gasoline to erupt onto them. The plaintiffs alleged that the gas can was unreasonably dangerous and defectively designed, because it did not contain a flame arrestor that would have prevented the flashback of flames into the gas can.
In another lawsuit filed against Blitz and Wal-Mart in 2009, a Texas couple alleged that their two year old son may have avoided severe burns across much of his body if a Blitz gas container had featured a child-proof cap. According to allegations raised in that complaint, the father placed the supplied cap back onto the spout after filling a lawnmower. A short time later, the toddler picked up the gas can, removed the cap and attempted to carry it to a storage room. When the father saw the child near the container and puddle of gasoline, he went to remove him. However, as the child was being moved, the gasoline vapors ignited and the lower half of the child caught fire. As the father ran out of the room with his son, the gas container exploded, causing further injury.
In recent years, Blitz USA and industry groups have attempted to lobby lawmakers to change laws to help protect fuel-container manufacturers from liability. At one time, Blitz USA was the only gas can manufacturer in the United States.
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