With summer in full swing, families head to their porches and patios to enjoy the long afternoons and evenings in the outdoors. In two recently filed lawsuits, multiple plaintiffs allege that they suffered serious injuries during those afternoons outside when decorative firepots exploded or burst into flames, splattering them with flaming fuel gel.
Plaintiffs’ mega-firm Motley Rice, based in Charleston, South Carolina, has filed two lawsuits – one in state court in Charleston and the second in South Carolina federal court. The first of those involves a West Ashley woman who suffered second- and third-degree burns on the lower half of her body when her firepot full of citronella gel allegedly exploded and engulfed her legs with flames. Smilowitz v. Napa Home & Garden, Inc, et al., C.A. No. 11-CP-4202 (S.C. June 2011). Charleston’s The Post and Courier covered the story near the May 21, 2011 incident, prior to the time suit was filed. The second suit was filed by two Florida residents who allege in their complaint that on May 25, 2011, they were visiting relatives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, when a “torch-like” flame engulfed one individual, who was transported to a burn center in Augusta, Georgia, with second- and third-degree burns over 30% of her body. The second plaintiff in that suit alleges he suffered serious burns while trying to extinguish the fire. Satterfield v. Napa Home & Garden, Inc. et al., C.A. No. 7:11-CV-01514-JMC (D.S.C. June 2011).
Both of these South Carolina complaints name as defendants the manufacturer, Georgia-based Napa Home and Garden, as well as Fuel Barons, Inc. and Losorea Packaging, Inc. They both involve Napa Firepots, which are outdoor glass or clay pots with open fuel gel containers.
These South Carolina incidents are not the only ones of record. ABC News recently covered [link includes video] a similar incident involving a New York teenager who suffered third-degree burns to his face while preparing for a wedding reception in his cousin’s backyard. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has reportedly since issued a warning on the gel fuel used in the firepots. The “jelly-like” substance, it says, can easily get onto clothing and skin when on fire and can be difficult to put out with water or smothering. With numerous reports of injury and an untold number of the products sold, additional lawsuits are likely to follow.