On December 5, 2011 the Firgard jury issued a referendum regarding Propane Safety Warnings and Gas Detectors resulting in a $1.7 million verdict which was obtained by the Beattie Law Firm on behalf of the Firgard’s. The jury found that the alleged purported safety material issued by a Growmark subsidiary was deficient and that what the company had done regarding gas detectors was likewise deficient. Mrs. Firgard was badly burned in a propane gas explosion in May 2008. Suit was filed against the propane retailer owned by Growmark. The essential claim against the retailer was based upon a lack of adequately warning the Firgard’s concerning the dangers of the odor only warning system and gas detectors.
The Growmark retailer defended on the basis that it had provided adequate warnings which included providing literature in safety information in the form of brochures and information in sales invoices and delivery tickets totaling in excess of 50 times. It further stated that included in the warnings or information regarding propane gas detectors. Significantly the Growmark retailer contended that it relied upon industry custom in using PERC brochures and followed the industry custom regarding the distribution of said alleged safety warnings including gas detectors. The brochures were mailed annually.
In prosecuting the case the Beattie Law Firm presented called as adverse witnesses New Century executives. New Century is a Growmark subsidiary. The New Century employees admitted, reluctantly, that there needs to be oral communication between the gas professional and the customer to ensure the customer fully and completely understands the dangers of using propane in a home. The employees further admitted that it is essential that a gas detector be used by customers even though New Century refuse to supply or require propane gas detectors.
The Beattie Law Firm utilized several experts including a chemical engineer, Tim Dunn, an odor chemist, Robert Stubbs, a human factors expert, Dr. Tom Schnell, and a gas detector expert, David Buddingh. These experts testified to the dangers of an odor only warning system and the critical need to ensure that every customer has a gas detector in their home especially if propane appliances are installed in basements. The Beattie Law Firm introduced evidence that the costs of a propane gas detector was a small fraction of a penny and less than the cost of the unreliable odorant.
It is believed by the Beattie Law Firm this case is very significant regarding the inadequacies of the propane gas industry concerning propane safety warnings and gas detectors. It is absolutely essential that every propane customer who uses propane in their home needs to have a gas detector.