Wrongful death suit involving four children moved to federal court

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Feb. 6, 2008, 7:54am

MARSHALL � In January 2006, fire broke out in a mobile home in Harrison County, killing five people including four children. Now the wrongful death case has been moved from the county court to federal court in the Eastern District of Texas.

The litigation arises out of the deaths of Laura Patton, 75, Teshareme Davison, 12, Destiny Graham, 11, Da'Marcus King, 5, and Nathanial Brown, 5, who suffered fatal injuries on Jan. 9, 2006, when a fire broke out and engulfed a mobile home in flames. Three others were injured, Clara Patton, Kimberley Graham, and John CJ Brown.

Harrison County's chief deputy Bob Arthur told local reporters, "We suspect that it was started by possibly smoking on the couch and caused the couch to ignite." Arthur believes there was an attempt to move the flaming couch outside but the individuals could not get it out the door.

But the families allege that a defective oxygen machine and a faulty smoke alarm caused the deaths. They argue that the delay in the discovery of the fire allowed smoke to fill the home, causing confusion and breathing difficulty and prevented the victims from escaping.

Individually and as estate representatives, Clara Patton, DeShawn and Cassandra Brown, James Davison, Jr. and Debbie Rockwell filed the original litigation on Jan. 8, 2008, against defendants Invacare Corporation, Praxair Healthcare Services, Kiddie Fyrnetics, Spirit Homes, Cavalier Enterprises, Cavalier Home Builders, and Discount Homes, Inc.

A few days after the original filing, Roderick Graham entered the litigation as intervenor on behalf of his deceased daughter Destiny Graham.

The suit accuses the oxygen concentrator manufacturer Invacare Corporation and defendant Praxair Healthcare Services of failing to maintain the oxygen concentrator, failing to provide instruction regarding the safe use, and failing to warn of the inherent dangers associated with the use of the concentrator.

The suit accuses defendant Kidde Fyrenetics of designing, manufacturing, and marketing defective smoke alarms.

Defendant Spirit Homes, Cavalier Enterprises and Discount Homes are accused of failure to include adequate smoke detectors and of negligently wiring the smoke detectors found in the mobile home.

The plaintiffs are seeking wrongful death damages, actual damages, court costs, and pre and post- judgment interest.

Defendant Praxair Healthcare Services denies the plaintiffs' allegations.

Defendant Invacare Corporation filed for the removal to federal court arguing there is complete diversity of jurisdiction and that it is "facially apparent" that the plaintiffs are seeking an award in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of $75,000.

Invacare Corporation denies the allegations and asserts "one or more of the adult Plaintiffs" was the reason for the fire, subsequent injures and deaths.

The plaintiffs are represented by Longview attorney Bradley T. Steele, attorney Glenn A. Perry of the Longview law firm Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher and Perry and Longview attorney Christopher L. Graham of the law firm Lauren Graham International, P.L.L.C.

Defendant Invacare Corporation is requesting a trial by jury.

U.S. District Judge John T. Ward is assigned to the litigation.

Case No. 2:08cv00040

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