Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Decision Concerning Wrongful Death from House Fire and Hazardous Materials' Labels
Your Charleston personal injury attorneys came across a recent court decision involving fatal burn injuries and the labeling of the product that fueled the fire. The following are the facts of the case. A Missouri man purchased a can of DAP Cement to use in installing new baseboards in his home. While he was carrying the closed can through his laundry room (located in his basement), he accidentally dropped the can causing some of the can’s contents to spill on the floor. When he attempted to clean up the spill by wiping up the adhesive, the vapors emitted from the DAP cement ignited and caused a flash fire. The 32-year-old man suffered second- and third-degree burns to 80% of his body. Remarkably, he was able to grab his 2-year-old and 3-year-old sons and saved them from the burning home. Unfortunately, the man ultimately died from his burn injuries two months after the accident.
The man’s wife and family sued DAP Inc., in federal court for: wrongful death on the theories of negligence, strict liability, and failure to warn; for negligent misrepresentation; and for violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri granted summary judgment in favor of DAP, and the plaintiff’s appeal summary judgment on their wrongful-death, failure-to-warn claim.
The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) requires hazardous substances sold in interstate commerce and intended for household use to bear adequate cautionary labels. According to case precedent, a plaintiff may bring a failure-to-warn claim based on the theory that a product label failed to comply with the FHSA. However, also according to a court's previous decision, a plaintiff cannot bring a failure to warn suit based on a state law theory that the product’s label should have included warnings not required by the FHSA.