$13.5 million awarded over fan’s China -made motor that caused fire fatal to boy
Having handled cases where defective fans cause sparks and fires, burn injury lawyer Doug Landau was intrigued by the Lasko Products case. According to the Philadelphia Daily News story, four years after a fire ignited by a faulty floor fan killed a 7-year-old Germantown boy, his family found some solace this week when a jury walloped the fan manufacturer, Lasko Products Inc. of West Chester, with a $13.5 million verdict. Lasko, the largest fan manufacturer in the United States, discovered a defect in the foreign-made motors in its portable fans in 1999 and developed corrective technology by 2004, said the boy’s attorney, Matthew D’Annunzio.
But the company did not alert consumers who already owned the defective fans or report the problem to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)until after 7-year-old Joshua Foster died in his burning apartment on June 14, 2005, according to the family’s counsel. Joshua usually camped out with his 9-year-old sister in their living room on hot nights to enjoy his home’s sole air-conditioner, D’Annunzio said. But he had crawled into his mother’s bed that night. Both awoke just before dawn to crackling noises and flames coming from the portable fan in the bedroom doorway. His mother scrambled out of bed to the kitchen faucet for water to douse the flames, mistakenly thinking her son had followed. Within seconds, a raging fire blocked the doorway, trapping Joshua and thwarting rescue attempts by his mother, sister and a neighbor. The boy died of thermal burns and smoke inhalation. City fire investigators determined that the blaze had started in the fan’s China-made motor.
After a 13-day trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, jurors on Wednesday found Lasko liable for Joshua’s death. They awarded his mother $4 million and sister $2 million for pain, suffering and emotional distress, $10,000 for funeral expenses and $7.5 million to the boy’s estate. Plaintiff’s counsel received about 42 reports of fans’ overheating, smoking, melting or catching fire between November 2002 and September 2005, but didn’t report them to the CPSC until September 2005, according to the commission. The commission announced in January that Lasko had agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty for failing to report those incidents. The commission and Lasko in February 2006 recalled 5.6 million fans that were manufactured between 1999 and 2001 and sold in stores as late as 2004 due to “a potential electrical failure in the fan motor [that] can pose a fire hazard.” The boy’s mother “feels vindicated, and just really wants the word out for people who didn’t hear about the Lasko recall; they should investigate the recall and protect themselves.” For Recall information