(June 3, 2012) A Massachusetts man went up in flames after applying Banana Boat Sunscreen to his body before grilling up some food.
He applied the sunscreen, rubbed it in for a couple of seconds, and walked to his grill, where the flames jumped onto his body as if the sunscreen was lighter fluid, engulfing his entire upper body.
He claims that he hired a lawyer so that he could attempt to clarify the warning labels on similar products so that others will not be burned by the manufacturer’s irresponsibility.
Luckily, his friends were quick to respond, and his doctor says that he would have sustained third or fourth degree burns, as opposed to the second degree burns which he suffered, if he had remained on fire any longer.
“Warning labels that say ‘flammable, don’t use near heat, flame or while burning’ is not enough because it does not warn people that it continues to be flammable after application,” he adds.
In order for him to have a successful products liability claim, the manufacturer has a duty to warn about hidden dangers of products, and must demonstrate to potential users how the product is to be properly used. If someone is injured using this product in its intended use and the manufacturer fails to meet either of these requirements, they will be liable for the ensuing harm.
There is no question that this man was using the sunscreen for its intended use, but it is not so clear whether the manufacturer properly warned of the dangers. The sunscreen label says to watch out for fire. In addition, the instructions on the grill mention that gloves should be worn when there is an open flame on a grill. Gloves would definitely have aided in retarding the flame. But he does have a small chance that, although the Banana Boat label does mention that the product is flammable, it does not mention whether this extends to the product remaining flammable while applied on the skin.
What are your thoughts? If you purchased a can of sunscreen that said “flammable,” would you expect it to remain flammable on your body? Would you expect to join your meats under flames after applying sunscreen?