Manufacturer Held Liable for Using Defective Fan Motor That Sparked Deadly House Fire | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The December 2006 recall of Lasko Products portable fans came eight months too late for 7-year-old Joshua Foster. The boy died from burns and smoke inhalation when the Chinese-made electric motor in the Lasko fan Joshua’s mother was using to cool her bedroom on June 14, 2005, malfunctioned, threw sparks and started the fire that consumed Joshua’s Mount Airy, Pennsylvania (PA), home and took young Joshua’s life.

In a jury trial that concluded last week with an award of $13.5 million to Joshua’s family, evidence showed that Lasko first learned of the fan motor defect in 1999 but continued using the motor in its fans until 2001. By its own estimate, Lasko, between 1999 and 2001, shipped some 5.6 million fans that had the potential to cause electrical fires.

The National Fire Protection Agency has determined that fans cause a majority of household electrical fires not caused by faulty wiring or artificial lighting. That Lasko would knowingly raise people’s fire risk is unconscionable. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has fined Lasko $500,000 for its failure to promptly report the defective fans and for not immediately ceasing production and sale of the dangerous product. That hardly seems enough of a penalty.

Electricity is a constant, but often ignored, danger in our homes and workplaces. Products such as portable fans and heaters add to this risk and need to be manufactured, maintained and operated in the safest ways possible. The Foster family appears to have taken every precaution and still had their lives shattered, and their boy taken from them, because of the disregard for safety by Lasko. The Fosters have received some justice, but I know nothing will replace Joshua.

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