Suits against Blitz USA include several from Eastern District of Texas

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Jul 13, 2012

Blitz USA, the country's largest maker of portable gas containers, filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, blaming its financial problems with the costs of lawsuits.

Since it began publishing in 2007, the Southeast Texas Record has reported on about 10 suits filed against Blitz USA alleging the defective design of the gas cans caused fires and explosions.

In East Texas, only one lawsuit made it all the way to trial. Rene Green filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blitz in August 2007 after her 20-year-old son died from injuries he received while using a Blitz gas container.

Jonathon Green was burning brush in a barrel and attempted to pour gas on the brush, when the container exploded covering him in burning gasoline.

Following 29 days of treatment, de died from his injuries. When the case went to trial in November 2008, Blitz won, with the jury finding that Blitz was not responsible for Green's injuries.

Due to a high-low settlement the parties entered into during the trial proceedings, Green was paid a confidential amount in the low settlement range. However, things in the case reheated in 2010 as the plaintiff alleged that Blitz violated discovery orders.
Ultimately, Blitz was given a $250,000 sanction by the court for failing to provide all related documents regarding flame arrestors and safety issues.

According to court documents, the judge did not find that Blitz had in bad faith withheld documents, it was more a series of mistakes, including failing to tell all Blitz employees not to delete emails.

The judge ordered the money to be provided to the plaintiff, stating that she would have received a higher settlement offer if the documents were made known during the trial. The Order of Sanctions is currently on appeal with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Another case did not make it to trial but was instead settled by both parties. The case was filed by Leonel and Amber Zecaida, on behalf of their child, in June 2009. The Longview couple blamed the lack of a child-proof cap on a gas can for a fire and explosion that engulfed their 2-year-old son.

According to the lawsuit, the child was playing in the backyard and managed to pick up a gas container that the father had just placed on a patio table. The child was able to remove the gas container's cap and carry the container into a nearby storage room.

The father saw his child lying in a puddle of gasoline and ran to pick him up. However, the gasoline vapors were ignited and the lower half of the child was burned. As the dad turned to run out of the storage room with his burning child, the gas can exploded, burning his leg.

The parents argued that their child would not have been burned if the gas container was equipped with a more effective child-resistant cap. The parties agreed to a settle the case for a confidential amount.

Blitz faced numerous other lawsuits, which argued that Blitz is liable for devastating personal injuries that were caused when its gasoline containers exploded. However, the company claims the fires were the result of the consumers' misuse of the gasoline containers.

Several lawsuits have been dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the cases can later be refiled against the company.

At least two additional lawsuits in East Texas federal court were closed with prejudice. The court documents did not reveal if Blitz and the injured parties settled their claims.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy is currently pending in the bankruptcy court in Delaware. Blitz USA plans to close its manufacturing facility in Oklahoma at the end of July, laying off 117 employees.

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