This case involves an allegedly defective electric blanket. A woman and her young son were at home when an electric blanket that they had been using caught on fire. The fire eventually caused the woman’s home to go up in flames. The woman was killed in the fire. Her young son was severely burned. The child suffered burns to approximately 70% of his entire body, including his head, back, upper arms, legs, and feet. The child was left with disfigurement, including the loss of three of his fingers and half of his right thumb and he was also left with bald spots and scarring on his head. The child also suffered an anoxic brain injury. This condition was caused by a lack of oxygen to the child’s brain. The child had to go through a long and painful hospitalization and was expected to require lifetime medical treatment as the result of the fire.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Can a short in an electric blanket cause the blanket to overheat and start a fire that can cause fatalities and severe injuries?
Expert Witness Response
Electric blankets work by using an electric heating unit inside the blanket. The controls of the blanket are located on the blanket power cord. Electric blankets are usually designed to be laid flat on a bed and using the blanket while it is folded or bunched up can cause a short in the wires that causes the blanket to overheat and start a fire. Many older models of electric blankets are not equipped with certain safety controls that can prevent them from overheating and causing fires. If an electric blanket does not have an automatic shutoff button, the blanket may overheat and start a fire that can spread through a house. Some electric blankets do not have different temperature settings. Because of this, the blankets may remain on a “high” temperature setting and can easily overheat and cause a house fire. If there is a design defect, such as a short circuit in an electric blanket, this can also cause the blanket to overheat and start a fire. In some cases, electric blankets have melted when they were folded because the heating elements were incorrectly attached to the wiring inside the blankets. If an electric blanket is defectively made, it may have an electrical fault that can cause the blanket’s electrical cable to “short out” and this can cause overheating and lead to a fire. In some cases, an internal defect in an electric blanket can cause the control cord to fatigue and can cause an internal short circuit in the blanket which leads to overheating and this may and start a fire.