The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) announced last month that nine manufacturers and distributors have initiated a voluntary recall of pourable gel fuels intended for use in outdoor firepots.
The recall occurred after the CPSC received reports that at least 65 people suffered injuries when the fuel spontaneously combusted while they were pouring it into their firepots. So far, two people have died and 34 have been hospitalized with second- or third-degree burn injuries.
Product Described as “Napalm-Like”
The injuries occurred while consumers were refilling firepots that were still aflame -because the fuel burns so cleanly, it’s very hard to recognize when a fire is still burning.
Pouring additional gel in a lit firepot can result in explosions that are accompanied by giant fireballs. The fuel is quite viscous, and when it explodes it will stick to any surface it encounters, including skin and clothing. The fires it causes cannot be extinguished by traditional “stop, drop and roll” methods, and pouring water on the flames will only cause the damage to spread.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called the product “napalm-like” and demanded that it be removed from the market entirely.
Victims Can Sue for Their Injuries
At least one of the victims has already initiated a lawsuit to recover for the injuries he and his son suffered when they were engulfed in flames after their firepot exploded.
Missouri law provides remedies for consumers who are injured by dangerous products. Missouri follows a “strict liability” rule in products liability cases, meaning that it is not necessary to show that the manufacturer or distributor of a dangerous product was negligent. Rather, injured parties may be able to recover if they can show that a product was unreasonably dangerous when put to its expected use. Additionally, they must have been injured while using the product in a way that the manufacturer or distributor could have reasonably expected.
Many states have similar requirements for claims arising from injuries caused by dangerous products.
Consumers injured by the recalled gel fuel, or by any other dangerous product, would be well-advised to contact an experienced products liability attorney in their area who can help them understand their rights.