Suit alleges defective coupling caused fatal propane fire

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Feb. 27, 2008, 5:00am

K-M Products MacCoupler

MARSHALL -- Gary Wayne Suggs, 51, was attempting to refill a propane container in a fifth-wheel trailer when a flash fire occurred, causing fatal injuries.

Gary's father, Billy Ray Suggs, alleges a defective coupling caused his son's death.

Billy Ray Suggs, individually and as estate representative, filed a product liability suit against K-M Products Inc. on Feb 25, 2008 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the original complaint, the deceased was attempting to refill a DOT-39, 1.02-pound propane cylinder from a 40-pound propane cylinder using a MacCoupler.

According to the K-M Products web site, the MacCoupler is the company's chief product, which it has been making for more than 20 years. It is used to fill 1 pound refillable propane cylinders with any 20 to 40 pound propane tank.

"It's easy and cost effective," the web site states. "Made of solid brass, the MacCoupler will last a lifetime and is a welcome addition to anyones camping gear, tool chest, or their RV or camper."

The web site includes downloadable instructions for proper use of the MacCoupler.

The plaintiff alleges K-M Products Inc. is liable because the coupler did not have sufficient, appropriate or securely affixed proper warning labels. Further, the plaintiff argues the defendant failed to use proper materials for the coupler and failed to adequately test or inspect the product and its components. The complaint states that the defendant knew the coupler was defectively designed and manufactured.

Suggs believes K-M Products is guilt of gross negligence and argues the company's conduct was heedless, reckless and with a conscious indifference to the welfare and safety of his son.

The plaintiff is seeking wrongful death damages for emotional pain, grief, and sorrow, and pecuniary losses including loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counseling and losses by virtue of the destruction of the parent-child relationship. On behalf of the deceased, the plaintiff is seeking damages for pain and suffering, funeral and burial expenses.

Tyler attorneys John D. Sloan Jr. and J. Ryan Fowler of the Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher and Perry Law Firm and Kilgore attorney Thomas H. Brown are representing the plaintiff.

Judge T. John Ward is assigned to the litigation.

Case No.: 2:08cv00084

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