Burn injuries can cause severe scarring, nerve damage, disfigurement, permanent disability and serious pain and suffering. Burn victims, whose injuries are the result of defective products, may have a viable legal claim against a negligent company that manufactured defective space heaters and failed to warn consumers of the risks of injury.
Third degree burns may require sustained medical attention, skin grafts and rehabilitation and medical costs can soar. Product liability lawsuits can recover expenses for plaintiffs and encourage portable heater companies to make safer products in the future.
In 2015, a California federal jury awarded over $59 million to the family of a woman who died in a fire sparked by a Sunbeam Products Inc. space heater. The jury found the company negligent in designing the product, and in failing to adequately warn consumers.
The jury determined that Sunbeam was aware of the fire risks posed by its product when it was manufactured, and concluded that the Holmes brand heater presented a substantial danger that ordinary consumers wouldn’t recognize. There are hundreds of other pending lawsuits against manufacturers, and each year space heater models are recalled because of the risks they pose.
Portable electric heaters are typically high-wattage appliances that have potential to ignite nearby combustible materials including curtains, mattresses, beds, upholstered furniture, paper, clothing, and flammable liquids. Space heaters come in two types: those powered by electricity and those powered by fuel. Both have been known to cause fires.
Millions of Americans rely on space heaters in the winter months, utilizing portable gas and electric heaters. But a combination of defective products and improper use creates a serious safety threat to many households. Space heaters are dangerous when left on for long periods, and safety is not always a priority for many companies and individuals. Space heater burn injury accidents and carbon monoxide poisoning are not as uncommon as consumer safety advocates would like.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 5,000 people were admitted to the emergency room for burn injuries related to space heaters. Many of the burn victims are children. The CPSC has offered safety guidelines for consumers, which include:
Space heaters are often used as a primary home heating appliance, mostly in low income communities. Alternative home heating choices is common in low-income communities when landlords fail to provide working heat.
As a result, space heater related fires occur disproportionally high in low-income communities, and therefore the disadvantaged experience a higher percentage of deaths and burn injuries.
Defective portable heaters, including space heaters, heater fans, patio heaters and propane heaters are recalled each year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), though the recalls are usually only announced once burn injuries and fires have already taken place. Victims of space heater burn injury accidents and fires can take legal action and seek compensation for medical expenses and damages related to heating product defects.
Each year, thousands of portable heater accidents and fires are reported to consumer safety agencies and fire prevention programs. Space heaters, in fact, are a leading cause of fires and associated fatalities in American homes, and can be prevented if companies are held accountable for producing and distributing unsafe and inferior products.
Joe Lyon is an experienced burn accident and Product Liability Lawyer investigating heater defects and space heater recalls for plaintiffs nationwide.
Safety should be a top consideration while using space heaters. When buying and installing a small space heater, here are some guidelines to follow:
• Only purchase model heaters that have all of the current safety features.
• Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label. Space heaters bearing the UL mark must pass certain safety tests.
• Do not purchase oversized heaters.
• If a heater is left on and unattended, a fire could result. It is best to turn off space heaters when leaving the room where they are used.
• Metal space heaters are generally safer than ones made of plastic.
• Locate the heater on a level surface, and away from foot traffic.
• Keep children and pets away from the heater.
• For liquid-fueled heaters, use only the approved fuel. Follow the manufacturer’s fueling instructions. Never fill a heater that is still hot. Do not overfill the heater
• Plug heaters directly into the wall outlet. Follow any manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to the use of extension cords.
• Buy units with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if tipped over.
While space heater manufacturers warn that space heaters must be constantly attended, and must always at least three feet away from combustibles, the warnings are not practical.
Therefore, safety tests require space heaters to shut off if they are tipped over. These safety tests also require that space heaters not ignite combustibles which are in actual contact with the space heaters.
Year after year, these precautions are still not enough to guarantee safety. To minimize future accidents, the manufacturers of space heaters must be held responsible for all resulting fire deaths, burn injuries and property damages.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more 300 deaths a year result from space heating accidents. The high frequency of space heater fires resulting burn injuries, deaths and property damage make it necessary for manufacturers to bear more responsibility. Space Heater recalls have increased in recent years.
Some cities have even banned the use of many types of portable space heaters. Before purchasing or using any type of space heater, it is advised to check with the local fire department to find out if it is legal in the community.
Many consumer product defect cases have had a positive impact on public health and safety. We have witnessed improved lives and burn injuries prevented as companies are forced to remove dangerous products and change designs and warnings as a result of litigation.
The following models have been added to space heater recalls in recent years for being a fire hazard to consumers:
• Vornado Air Electric Space Heaters
• Sunbeam Holmes Ceramic Heaters
• Twin-Star Duraflame Electric Space Heater
• Kenmore Oscillating Fan Heaters
• Lifesmart Lifepro portable heater (due to electrical shock hazard)
• Soleil Portable Fan Heaters
• Optimus Portable Infrared Radiant Quartz Electric Space Heaters
• Touch Point Portable Baseboard Convection Heaters
• Optimus Tower Quartz Portable Heaters
• Aloha Breeze Portable Electric Heaters
• Climate Keeper Portable Space Heater and Oscillating Space Heaters
• Creative Heating Solutions Portable Space Heaters
• Touch Point Forced Air Heaters
• Honeywell Surround Select Portable Electric Heaters
• Touch Point Oscillating Ceramic Heaters
• True Living Electric Space Heater Fans
• True Living Portable Quartz Radiant Heaters
• Lasko Portable Electric Heaters
• Flow Pro Electric Heaters
• Airtech Electric Heaters
• Comfort Essentials Heaters
• Honeywell Moveable Baseboard Heaters
• Ritchie Immerson Heaters (due to electrical shock hazard)
• Legacy Propane Infrared Plaque Heaters
• Soleus Air Space Heaters
• Dyson Bladeless Electric Heater
• Holmes; Oil-Filled Electric Heaters
• Mr. Heater Big Buddy and Tough Buddy Portable Propane Heaters
• Maxiheat Dream Tower Heaters
• Tower Heaters and Patio Heaters
• Model 511 Oil-Filled Electric Radiator Heaters
• Aloha Radiant Heater
• Sun-Sational Electric Heater
• Weather Works Ventilaire Electric Heaters
• Lakewood Electric Heater
• Vermont Castings Space Heaters
• Holmes Wide-Angle Portable Heaters
• Maxi-heat Electric Oil-Filled Radiator Heaters
The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues thousands of product recalls each year in the United States, initiated sometimes already after an injury or accident has already been reported. Following burn injury, regardless of recall status, victims and plaintiffs may pursue legal action and contact a lawyer to begin the litigation process.
Space heaters can be considered defective if they have a faulty design that poses fire or burn risks, are made of inferior materials that melt, have insufficient guards and gates, have improper or insufficient warnings and instructions, do not have automatic shutoff mechanisms, are prone to overheat, or cause short circuit fires.
Defective space heaters on the market present serious safety hazards for adults and children in their own home. Cheap and defective home heaters may pose fire and burn risks; electrocution, and home fire risks. The manufacturers of space heaters have a duty to foresee potential injury and properly design and test heaters before they are sold.
Companies must also properly warn consumers of any burn and fire risks associated with their products. Any failure to protect consumers that results in accidents and burn injury can lead to lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and their chosen lawyer
The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against companies due to a defective home heater or recalled space heater to obtain just compensation and justice under the law.
(Hillsboro, Ohio): Confidential Settlement for the family of elderly man who was catastrophically burned while operating a propane wall heater.
The defect allowed the flame to come outside the protective grate when the user was igniting the heater. In this case, the flame set his cotton shirt on fire resulting in the terminal injuries. Testing performed by the experts confirmed the mechanism and defect.
The heater, manufactured and sourced from China, was alleged to allow the flame to reach outside the grid area in violation of ANSI standards.
The Defendant resolved the case following discovery and mediation. The recovered funds were paid to the victim’s surviving spouse of 65 years and two daughters and one son. The company no longer manufactures this type of heater.