Plaintiff’s Defect Theory Up in Smoke? Enter Malfunction Theory

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently made its ruling in White v. Mazda Motor of Am., 313 Conn. 610. In White, the plaintiff asserted design defect claims against Mazda after a car purchased by the plaintiff burst into flames one month later. The plaintiff’s complaint cited a laundry list of various defects which may have caused or contributed to the incident. To support its allegation, the plaintiff retained a certified fire investigator as an expert. The plaintiff’s expert testified that “the fire appears to be from the cause of a mechanical failure and … is the direct result of gasoline leaking on a hot surface causing the vehicle to catch fire.” Upon further examination, however, the plaintiff’s expert testified that “he was ‘not offering an opinion that the [vehicle] was defective … ...
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Court Turns Down The Heat On Requirements For Ignition Scenario Testing

A federal court in Wisconsin recently addressed what constitutes acceptable conditions for ignition scenario testing in fire cases. In Smithfield Foods, Inc. et al. v. United States, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134523 (E.D. Wis., September 23, 2014), the plaintiffs filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act alleging that a pork processing facility was destroyed by a fire ignited by a M125 military flare stolen by a member of the United States Marine Corps. The plaintiffs claimed that the United States was negligent because it failed to properly track, secure and store munitions, and to prevent such items from finding their way into an uncontrolled area, or into unauthorized hands. The plaintiffs filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude the report, opinions, and testimony of ...
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The National Fire Protection Agency Turns up the Heat on Hypothesis Testing in its 2014 Version of NFPA 921

The fire community is continuously evolving to recognize changes in science, technology and the legal implications of fire investigations.   NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 921 Guide for Fire and Explosions Investigations, is a guide that seeks to educate the fire community about the current acceptable method of fire investigations. In order to do so, the committee of professionals that authors the guide publishes new versions every three years.  NFPA 921 was first published in 1992 and since has evolved into a document regarded by many, including some courts, as the “gold standard” in fire investigations. The latest edition of NFPA 921 came out in 2014. Aside from adding color photos and user friendly online edition, the 2014 version was amended to emphasize some key areas surrounding the reliability of a ...
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Insurance Compnay Gets Burned For Unsupported Arson Allegation

A Superior Court Judge sent a costly message to Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company after it declined to pay a policyholder for losses suffered in a residential fire based on its own findings that the fire was intentionally set. The fire occurred on February 26, 2009, in Pomfret, Connecticut. Local fire officials determined that the fire was accidental and likely caused by faulty wiring. Travelers, however, claimed that its insured poured kerosene in the home and ignited it.
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