House Burns After Outdoor Lighting Ignites Mulch

Nite FX, Inc. was hired by Ilene Gasner to install electrical outdoor lighting around her home. Nite FX purchased in-ground lights manufactured by Lighting Systems, Inc. The lights were installed in various places around the home, including the mulch beds that surround the home. The lights allegedly came with grates that were designed to fit over the top of each unit to prevent debris from entering the lights.

Gasner hired Chris’ Lawn Service to maintain the grounds, including the mulch beds. She specifically advised the service that no mulch was to accumulate on or cover the lights. However, on two separate occasions, Gasner noticed mulch covering the lights and asked the lawn service to remove it.

About two-and-a-half years after the lighting was installed, some mulch that had accumulated on one of the lights caught fire. The wind spread the fire toward Gasner’s house, igniting the home’s siding and a natural gas connection. The fire burned up the side of the house, through the attic and caused a significant amount of damage, including the complete destruction of the roof. The contents of the home and Gasner’s car were severely damaged.

Illinois Farmers sued Unique Lighting, alleging that the lights were defectively designed in that the means by which the grates were attached made it possible for them to fall off or be taken off. Gasner contended that the grate over the light that caught fire was missing and that it either fell off or was removed. However, the plaintiff asserted that the openings in the grate were too large, so even if the grate were present, it wouldn’t have prevented the mulch from entering and contacting the light’s heated surface.

The plaintiff alleged that Unique failed to provide adequate warnings in that (1) the warnings in the materials that accompanied the lights failed to specifically mention the risk of fire, and (2) the on-product warning stating not to cover the light was located on the outside of the light in a place that would not be visible to a consumer once the light was installed. The plaintiff contended that the warning should have been located on the inside, where it would remain visible even after the light was installed.

The suit against Nite FX alleged that it negligently installed and maintained the lights in that it either failed to attach the debris grates or failed to ensure that they permanently remained attached.

Finally, the suit against the lawn care service alleged that it was negligent in spreading mulch directly over the lights or in failing to ensure they remained clear of mulch, as Gasner had requested.

Unique argued that it sold the lighting with the grates but that FX failed to attach them or ensure that they remained attached. FX argued that Unique never supplied the grates or, if they did, they failed to remain on, and the installer did not know they were important. The lawn care service denied that it spread mulch over the lights or failed to clear mulch and argued that the wind had blown the mulch onto the lights.

Gasner settled with Nite FX, which was uninsured, for $2,000 and later settled with Unique Lighting for $149,000. The plaintiff settled with the lawn care company for $128,000.

If you or a loved one experienced damage or loss of property as the result of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact one of our experienced Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) for more information.

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