Insurer says furniture maker's defective product caused house fire

Kelly Holleran Jan. 29, 2012, 12:50pm

An insurance company has filed suit against the manufacturers of a piece of furniture that it alleges caught on fire, causing more than $160,000 in damages to a Beaumont home.

Farmers Insurance Exchange claims it was forced to pay Valarie Ceasar $161,240 after her home on Ironton Street in Beaumont caught on fire on July 12, 2010.

The fire started at a lighted headboard at Ceasar's home, according to the complaint filed Jan. 18 in Jefferson County District Court.

"Our investigation has concluded that the fire resulted from a product defect in a power strip located in the headboard of the bed or an error in installation of the strip in the headboard," the suit states.

The suit states defendant Accent manufactured the headboard, while defendants National Lighting Corp. and Comkit Corp. designed the power switch allegedly responsible for the fire.

Farmers blames National Lighting and Comkit for defectively designing the power switch, saying the companies could have increased the size of the heat sink that surrounds the dimmer switch to make the product safer.

Farmers also names Accent Furniture as a defendant, saying it negligently failed to use reasonable care when choosing a power switch to use in its furniture and could have modified the power switch during its installation into the headboard and failed to use due care.

In its complaint, Farmers Insurance Exchange is seeking actual damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at the legal rate, costs and other relief the court deems just.

William T. Sebesta and Randall J. Poelma Jr. of Doyen Sebesta in Houston will be representing it.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Case No. D191-672

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