Accident due to Dangerous Product: Compensation for Burn Injuries
A man in his sixties went to a neighborhood auto mechanic to have a thermostat put in his van. It was so cold that the proprietor invited him in to warm up. A negligently maintained gas heater caused our client’s pants to catch on fire, resulting in burns on his legs and hands. We knew that obtaining photographs of the heater was critical to the case. However, most people don’t let people take photographs of their premises when they know there has been an accident. Determined to win, we aggressively sent an investigator to photograph the heater and the photographs prompted the insurance company to compensate our client within 18 months.
See Suffolk Superior Court Civil Action Number 2000-03282.
Two Year Old Suffers Burns to 25% of His Body in House Fire
One family member jumped out the window to safety. He suffered minor injuries. The mother, grabbing her two year old baby, and her brother and began down the only stairway to get out of the building, which they could see was burning, with smoke and flames rushing up the very stairs they wanted to descend. With the intense flames, there was no oxygen. The mother, gasping for air, pushed her baby into the arms of her brother. She died on the steps, saving the life of her son.With the baby’s face up against his chest, the uncle struggled to get out the door and into the street where they were met by the Boston Fire Department and whisked away to the hospital.
The uncle suffered burns to 95% of his body. He survived and was quite able to retell the history of facts in the case.The baby suffered burns to 25% of his body, including his cheeks, arms and legs. He spent months at Shriners Burn Hospital, where he received multiple skin grafts. Fortunately, he was released and is doing well. Unfortunately, the severe scarring will never go away. Nor will the pain from the loss of his mother.We represented the baby’s father. The parents had been separated. The father was not living at the home where the fire was, but spent every day at the hospital helping his son to recover. After he recovered, the baby went home with his father, and several step-brothers.When we filed suit in Superior Court, we did not anticipate that the fight would be over liability; we thought that the fight would be over the extent of the damages. After all, the Fire Department report stated that the smoke detectors were “not functioning” and the landlord, who lived in an apartment below, ran out of the house without really trying to get folks out.
Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, however, retained counsel that decided to fight us on liability, or responsibility. They first ignored our demand for a reasonable settlement, within the insurance policy limits. Then they had their insured lie, under oath, about the smoke detector batteries. We caught them in this, however. Next they refused to respond to our 93A “unfair and deceptive” demand. Fortunately, that second demand went to new counsel, which led to resolution of the case.
However, resolution was now too late for the homeowner to escape personal responsibility. That is, because while the insurance company attorney was delaying the case, we were undertaking discovery: and we discovered that the homeowners, who we had assumed only owned one home, actually owned another home. And that second home had significant equity in it. This allowed us to secure a lien on the second home, forcing a settlement; not only did we get the full insurance policy, which should have been offered at the outset, considering the injuries, but we secured a significant settlement personally from the defendants, coming out of the equity in their second home.
We saw the “baby” recently with his step-brothers and father. He’s doing well. And the trust fund set up for him will help him later in life!