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Flash fire burns 19-year old worker at car wash

Type of Injury: Second Degree Burns
Type of Case: Product Liability
Settlement Amount: $105,000.00

This lawsuit resulted from an occurrence on February 28, 2011 at the plaintiff’s place of employment (Snappy Hand Car Wash, 5961 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago, Illinois). At the time of the incident (flash fire), the plaintiff was pumping tire dressing from a 55-gallon, steel drum into a bucket used to apply to cars. The tire dressing was a solvent-based tire dressing containing heptane. The subject tire dressing was manufactured by EMCO Chemical Distributors (third-party defendant) and distributed to Snappy by Professional Finish, Inc. (defendant). The plaintiff sustained some 2nd degree burns to his face, forearms, and lower legs.

The flash fire occurred because the tire dressing contained extremely flammable liquid and vapor, which was ignited by a buildup and release of static electricity in the pump. If the containers are not properly bonded and grounded, the resulting static spark could be capable of raising the vapor temperature above the flash point, causing an explosion. EMCO testified that it provided Professional Finish with material safety data sheet (“MSDS”) advising of the safety concerns and the need for the drum to be grounded and any bucket being filled be “bonded”.

The salesperson from Professional Finish testified that he provided Snappy with a MSDS for the tire dressing.

The owner of Snappy testified that he was never told that the drum needed to be grounded and buckets needed to be bonded. Further, Snappy said that despite the fact that a salesperson from Professional Finish was at the facility on a weekly basis, Professional Finish never mentioned that Snappy was not doing something it was supposed to be doing with the drums of Ice Tire Dressing. Following the incident and OSHA investigation, Snappy changed its practices and begin to ground the barrels.

What Each Defendant Paid: Professional Finish, Inc. paid $100,000.00. EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc. paid $5,000.00. NOTE: Employer (Snappy Car Wash, Inc.) waived its significant worker’s compensation lien.

Insurance Company: Professional Finish, Inc. has coverage through State Farm Insurance Company. EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc. has coverage through Zurich Insurance Company.

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