Blitz USA to close plant due to cost of lawsuits
Blitz USA in Miami, Okla.
Citing the costs of lawsuits against the company, Blitz USA will close its gas can manufacturing facility in Oklahoma after almost 50 years in production and lay off more than 100 employees at the end of this month.
According to a release from the company, which makes 75 percent of the portable gas cans sold in the country, Blitz USA has been bombarded by litigation from users who allege the cans' design did not protect them when they poured gasoline onto fires.
Since 2007, the Southeast Texas Record has reported on about 10 suits filed against Blitz USA in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
"This is a sad day in the 46-year history of Blitz and for our 117 employees," said Blitz USA president and CEO Rocky Flick in a statement released in June.
"We appreciate the support of our employees and their families in our efforts to reorganize and develop a viable business plan. Unfortunately, we were not able to address the costs of the increased litigation associated with our fuel containment products."
Among the lawsuits that have hit the company hard is a $4 million judgment in Utah, which is currently on appeal.
The plaintiff in the Utah case tried to start a fire in a wood-burning stove inside a trailer home by inserting the nozzle of the gas can into the stove and pouring gasoline onto the fire. The plaintiff was severely burned and his 2-year-old daughter was killed by the resulting conflagration.
As pointed out by the PointOfLaw.com blog in a July 9 post, the plaintiff blamed Blitz USA for failing to warn consumers of the dangers even though the plastic gas container is imprinted with instructions to "Keep away from flames, pilot lights, stoves, heaters, electric motors, and other sources of ignition."
Prior to taking the step to close its Miami, Okla., facility, Blitz USA sought Chapter 11 relief in November 2011.
"We have been operating under extremely litigious environment and have been working toward a solution for quite some time," the company wrote in a letter to customers on Nov. 9, 2011. "The defense costs related to increased litigation associated with fuel containment products is the primary factor that leads to our current situation."