This case involves a man in Tennessee who sustained burn injuries from a fire started in his kitchen. The plaintiff had been cooking dinner when he smelled gas from the top part of the stove, which suddenly burst into flames. The plaintiff attempted to shut off the gas, however the fire increased in size, causing a large fire to start in his kitchen and causing severe burns to the plaintiff. Upon later inspection, a gas leak was discovered as the probable cause of the fire. The gas leak was linked to a defective seal in one of the the stove’s internal gas lines, which had allowed gas to seep out of the burners while they were turned off. In addition, it was claimed the the stove lacked adequate fire suppression features.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please briefly describe your experience as it relates to stoves.
- 2. Can you discuss mechanical/engineering details that may have prevented the leak?
Expert Witness Response E-001087
I am a certified fire and explosion investigator and an experienced forensic mechanical engineer. I do not have specific design related experience with the ranges in question, however I have a great deal of experience with gas-fired appliances including consumer gas grills, commercial boilers and griddles, and industrial gas fired equipment. I also have experience in commercial cooking equipment fire protection. Although this case seems interesting, I have several questions regarding the overview. First, it seems unusual that a gas leak would cause a fire for a range. Perhaps the fire might have caused a leak. Next, all fire suppression systems that I’m aware of used on residential and commercial stoves/ranges have a delay in activation prior to discharge after the fire starts. This time is necessary for the thermal elements used to activate the system to become hot and also prevents false activation. This raises the question of whether a suppression system would prevent a burn injury in the circumstances described.