There is a price to pay for our litigious system of serving up huge jackpots in lieu of actual innovation or productive behavior. That price, in the case of Miami, Oklahoma, was 350 jobs, the loss of health insurance for 350 families, and all of the ancillary multiplicative effects of a small community losing its only manufacturing and tax base. What it cost the country is this, you will no longer have the option of walking to the nearest gas station in order to purchase a sufficient quantity of gasoline to get your whole car to the gas station should you run out of gas. Now, thanks to law suit abuse, you will have to pay for the tow, and wait God knows how long for that tow truck to arrive.
At what point exactly did we as a society, just throw our arms collectively, (pun intended,) into the air and declare ourselves just too damned stupid to function without being forced to wear protective head gear? Blitz USA inc. manufactured about 75% of the small gasoline containers used in the world by people who wished to put small amounts of gasoline into lawn mowers, stalled cars, motor cycles, snow blowers, or anyone of another dozen legitimate uses. But since this is America, and we all have the God given right to be just as stupid as is humanly possible, you can bet your bottom dollar that more than a few people saw fit to take the good Lord up on that very concept. They used Blitz’s otherwise useful product to pour gasoline on open flames, rather than utilizing the fire safety lessons taught in Third Grade Classrooms to every child across the country, (for example, do not pour gasoline on open flames.) Having eschewed perhaps the only useful thing taught in our public school system, as you might have guessed, some folks got hurt. And since in America, nothing is ever the fault of the person who actually committed the act of idiocy in the first place, who ever has the deepest pockets gets volunteered automatically to take fiscal responsibility.
Blitz USA inc., not being a fortune 500 company with an unlimited asset base, eventually found her breaking point. That breaking point by the way, was reached without a single one of the claims made by her plaintiff’s having been proven in court. Not a single explosion of the variety claimed to be a potential was ever duplicated, created, or actually shown to have happened. Blitz simply ran through the entirety of her capital defending 43 law suits, all without merit.
You may never have heard of Blitz USA, but if you have a red portable gasoline can in your garage, chances are you own their product.
At its peak, Blitz USA, the 50-year-old producer of three out of every four portable gas cans nationwide, employed 350 people in the small town of Miami, Oklahoma. But over the last decade, a wave of costly litigation took its toll, and lawsuits finally drove the company out of business.
Around the turn of the century, Blitz came into the crosshairs of the product liability lawyers who saw opportunity in the handful of injuries that came almost exclusively from misuse or miss-storage of the gas can. What started as one lawsuit against Blitz quickly ballooned to more than 40.
The plaintiffs’ cases hinged upon the theory that Blitz cans were liable to combust in the course of use around an open flame.
“The lawyers that are suing us have a theory that the gas vapor, when somebody pours it on a fire, goes up inside the can and the can explodes,” says Blitz CEO Rocky Flick. While Blitz’ experts were never able to replicate the “exploding gas can,” it was clear that misusing a gasoline can by pouring fuel on an open flame could cause serious injuries. “There’s no way to protect somebody pouring gas on a fire,” says Flick.
As the cases mounted and Blitz was forced to empty more than $30 million from its coffers in defense and damage fees, the writing was on the wall. Blitz had to declare bankruptcy, forcing 117 of its remaining employees out of work.
“It was a case where we couldn’t fight them all,” explains Flick. Blitz USA finally closed its doors in August 2012.
All of this happened despite the fact that Blitz molded instruction on the proper use of their product right into the plastic, and placed warnings imploring people not to pour gasoline on to open flames, ever, let alone with their product. My goodness people, we used to laugh at morons who acted this foolishly, and deservedly so.
Of course, the usual lobby groups for plaintiff’s attorneys have all gotten together in order to frame the story in their nuanced language of moral relativism. It just so happens that some extensive studies were done concerning those vaunted flame arrestors, and guess what, turns out that they would have actually made the gas cans more dangerous if misused in the manner described. Knowing that the gas cans did not explode, but that the gas that splashed about actually ignited, a mesh screen would have resulted in greater amounts of gasoline being splashed about. As long as the plaintiff’s attorneys get their pay day I suppose, we should call that a big win for our lottery style judicial system.