Recently, some journalists have condemned trial lawyers for the downfall of Blitz USA, the maker of plastic gasoline containers. Blitz recently went into bankruptcy. Criticism has been lodged by an editorial in the Wall Street Journal and by John Stossel on Fox News. These critics charge that trial lawyers are injuring the economy and causing the loss of jobs at Blitz, finding no fault on the part of Blitz in causing serious burn injuries to those who have used their gas containers.
In fact, Mr. Stossel claims that there was no basis for the lawsuits that have been brought against Blitz even though Blitz has settled some lawsuits for millions of dollars. Stossel explains away the settlements as mere decisions to avoid the cost of legal defense, stating that the victims of these severe burn injuries made “stupid decisions.”
Here’s what is interesting. To cut costs, Blitz decided not to put flame arrestors in their gas cans. A flame arrestor is a piece of wire mesh which costs less than 1 dollar. It is a safety device which prevents flashback of flames into a fuel container which can result in a sudden explosion and shooting flames from burning gas. Dan Rather has reported that the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) investigated the containers after a 6 year old girl was killed when one of the gas containers exploded. The ATF’s testing revealed that the gas cans exploded during 13 of the 17 tests, and flames shot out over four feet.
Rather than correct their gas cans, Blitz has been complaining to the US Chamber of Commerce about lawsuits stemming from their gas cans. The American Tort Reform Association (“ATRA”), a multi-million dollar front organization funded by tobacco, insurance, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, has taken up the cause, fueling a marketing campaign against trial lawyers.