A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by the family of a young man from Madison, Alabama, who was severely burned in a flash explosion by a decorative fire pot in May 2011.
The lawsuit was filed by Chris Kutsor, who was 24 years old at the time of the explosion, and his father, on behalf of Kutsor’s younger sister. They settled the suit with the defendant’s Michigan-based importer and distributor of the gel fuel, Bird Brain Inc., as well as the Missouri-based fire pot maker, Gerson Co. and TJX Companies who own Marshalls, where the products were purchased.
According to court records, the amount of the settlement was $225,000.
In late 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a voluntary recall of the gel fuel and fire pot products from 12 firms. The products were recalled following reports of 76 gel fuel fire incidents, as of September 2011, which resulted in two deaths and 86 injuries. A number of lawsuits have been filed throughout the U.S. in connection with fire pot explosions.
Kutsor was airlifted to the UAB Burn Center after the May 29, 2011 explosion, according to the lawsuit.
The victim’s father sued on behalf of his daughter, who suffered severe emotional distress from the incident, the lawsuit stated.
According to the lawsuit, the victim was with his two brothers, his 12-year-old sister and his girlfriend when they began to use the fire pot “as instructed.” The victim’s girlfriend saw that the flame had gone out as the fuel gel had been used up. At that point, she added fuel gel to the pot, which was in the shape of a turtle.
“The Fuel Gel she was pouring ignited, causing a fuel gel flash fire explosion, which bathed Chris Kutsor with flaming Fuel Gel,” the lawsuit said. “The ignited gel hit Chris Kutsor in the neck, chest and face. His shirt, skin and hair immediately caught fire.”
The victim’s sister was standing next to him and drops of flaming fuel gel just missed her, the lawsuit said, and she barely missed being injured.
The victim’s family attempted to tear off Kutsor’s burning shirt and his mother used water in trying to put out the fire, which was burning his hair, face, neck and chest.
An ambulance responded to the scene and drove Kutsor a short distance to an area with enough space to allow a helicopter to land and transport him to UAB’s Burn Center.
Fortunately, Kutsor has recovered from his injuries, which included severe burns over 14 percent of his body, after a long rehabilitation and healing process.
ABC 7 News reported that the flame inside the lit fuel canister burns so low that it is not always visible to the human eye. When more fuel gel is added, an explosion occurs.
Regulators said that the burning gel sticks to the skin and is difficult to extinguish. The classic, “stop, drop and roll technique,” doesn’t work in such cases because patting the flaming gel actually spreads the burning surface.
Safety advocates are pushing for companies to utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter to warn consumers about the potential hazards with these products. Officials are also working on policies that will better regulate the gel fuel market.
Despite the CPSC issuing voluntary recalls for the fuel gel used in the decorative flaming pots due to fire and burn injury risks, firefighters in California reminded consumers that these products are dangerous.
Companies that manufacture and distribute these fuel gel and fire pot products have an obligation to consumers to ensure that their products are safe. Failure to do so could be considered negligence in the event of an accident or injuries.
For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).