Firm Obtains Major Settlement in Fire Pit Burn Case
A sun-drenched, fun-filled day at the beach turned into a nightmare for the parents of a 4-year-old boy who fell into a smoldering fire pit ring and suffered second- and third-degree burns to his body. There was no roaring fire, no flames to warn the parents of the danger. The burning embers were hidden beneath sand atop a manufactured fire pit ring—an artificial hole with no guarding or protective device.
The way a fire pit ring is designed and intended to be used creates an accident waiting to happen, according to Personal Injury attorneys Roger Gordon and Vincent Bennett from the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, who obtained a substantial six-figure settlement in this case. The defendants? The homeowners’ association (HOA) responsible for the stretch of beach in Orange County where the accident occurred, and the manufacturer of the fire pit ring.
Fire pit rings are designed and manufactured to “sit” low to the ground when they are installed. When the installation is on a sandy beach, as was the case here, the pit’s height is further reduced because it sinks into the sand over time, causing the outer rim of the pit to be only inches above the ground. There is no guarding around its perimeter.
The HOA had no system in place to monitor the fire pit rings under its jurisdiction and did not display any warning signs of the potential danger. In addition, “Despite several available options in the fire pit ring industry that would have protected our client from this horrible accident, including a simple protective grate, the manufacturer continued to design, sell and install this product without any added protections,” says Gordon.
“In California, a product is defective in design if it does not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner.”
The manufacturer of this fire pit ring never conducted any research or had any procedure in place that would monitor the number of fire pit ring-related injuries. Gordon says the manufacturer was aware of the defective design and the potential hidden dangers it posed to the public, but contended that its product wasn’t dangerous because it knew of no incident similar to our plaintiff’s.
However, statistics from University of California, Irvine (UCI) Burn Center suggest otherwise. The facility treated 20 fire pit-related burn injuries in 2006, 11 in 2007 and 22 in 2008. As of August, 2009 when the report was made, the UCI Burn Center had treated 23 fire pit burn patients, 17 of whom were children.
“Our client, a little boy who was experiencing the wonders, sounds and images of the beach and ocean, was subjected to one of the most horrific feelings of physical pain imaginable because of the defendants’ irresponsibility. In addition, his parents endured unimaginable emotional pain watching their child in such agony during the incident and after, while he had to undergo excruciating surgeries. It’s unconscionable that all of this pain and suffering could have been prevented easily.”
Until fire pit ring manufacturers take prevention seriously, it will be up to users to protect themselves. Dr. Marianne Cinat of the UCI Burn Center offers the following fire pit safety tips:
- Don’t bury hot charcoals in sand; coals can smolder for up to 24 hours.
- Extinguish coals by drenching them in water; wait five minutes and drench them again.
- If water is not available, don’t bury the coals; the most risk occurs when the danger of hot coals is hidden by sand.
- Always assume there are hot coals or embers at the bottom of a fire pit, even if you think it hasn’t been used recently.
- If injured, don’t put ice on the skin, as it can cause damage (children’s skin is thinner than that of adults). Wash the burn with cool water for up to 10 minutes. For a small area, use a cool washcloth; with a larger burn use a cool towel. Take the burn victim to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP has had great success representing clients harmed by defective products. If you would like to talk to a Los Angeles attorney about your case, please contact us at 213-739-7000.