A family has resolved their claim for fatal home accident compensation after insurers agreed to a settlement the day prior to jury selection.
On 27th January 2008, Khanh Toan Tran – a 40-year-old postal worker from Brooklyn in New York – was attempting to solder a pipe while renovating his kitchen; but, as he lit his blowtorch, the canister containing a stabilized mixture of methylacetylene and propadiene exploded, and Khanh was engulfed in a fireball.
Khanh was rushed to hospital with second and third degree burns over the unclothed area of his body where a coma was induced. He received extensive treatment including skin grafts while being kept alive by a respirator but unfortunately, Khanh did not come out of his coma and died thirty days later.
Khanh´s father – Huu Thien Tran – acting as the administrator of his son’s estate, sued the canister’s manufacturer Worthington Cylinder Corp, its parent company and the retailer that had sold the gas canister – Brooklyn-based 65/6 Economy Enterprises Inc – alleging that the canister was defectively designed, and that 65/6 Economy Enterprises was strictly liable for the canister igniting.
Tran Senior supported his claim for fatal home accident compensation with a metallurgist´s report that alleged the canister was weakened during the manufacturing process by phosphorus used to braze the canister; and that a relatively minor force at the retail store caused a crack to develop, which allowed the flammable gases to escape near the housing in the blowtorch when a source of ignition was close by.
The family´s claim for fatal home accident compensation sought damages that included $250,000 for past medical expenses, $4 million for future lost earnings and benefits, an unspecified amount of damages for Khanh´s pain and suffering and damages for his widow – Zhu Ai Chen. The family´s attorney also found evidence that twenty similar accidents had been caused by defects in the same brand of gas canister.
The defendants acknowledged that accidents had occurred before with the same brand of canister, but usually because the users had abused the canister beforehand. They noted that, at the time of the accident, Khanh had been bare-footed with tools strewn around the kitchen floor and that the autopsy into Khahn´s death had indentified fractures of his left ankle and his left foot – implying that he may have tripped and fallen, and caused the canister to rupture by his own misfortune.
The case was scheduled to be heard at the Kings County Supreme Court in New York, but the day before jury selection was due to begin, the claim for fatal home accident compensation was resolved in a mediated settlement that saw the defendants’ primary insurer agree to pay $2 million compensation, with a further $1.75 million agreed by the defendants’ excess insurer.