This case involves a devastating fire that was ignited by a malfunctioning Kenmore double oven electric range caused by faulty wire assembly. The plaintiff had purchased the oven from a major national retailer and promptly advised them that the oven was not working properly, noting that the range would turn on to extremely high temperatures, and wouldn’t stop heating. In addition to contacting the retailer, the plaintiff also contacted the manufacturer with the same explanation. The oven was still under a full manufacturer’s warranty and the plaintiff was instructed by both the retailer and the manufacturer to contact a service repair company in the general region to have the oven fixed. Upon arrival at the plaintiff’s home, the serviceman advised the plaintiff that his employer had given him improper paperwork and that he didn’t have the necessary skills or parts to provide needed repairs. After that, he left the plaintiff’s residence without correcting the issue and without disabling the device. Three weeks after the service call, the oven malfunctioned once again, causing a major house fire, which destroyed the home and which caused the death of the plaintiff’s young son.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Would you ever leave a customer’s home, with an oven that you knew to be dangerously hot and which won't stop overheating, without repairing and/or disconnecting the oven?
- 2. What steps would you take to ensure the customer and their family were safe in the home with a malfunctioning oven?
Expert Witness Response E-006695
I have a long career and plenty of experience repairing broken range ovens, including those manufactured and sold bearing this manufacturer’s name, as well as the name of another manufacturer that produces a virtually identical product. In my considerable time repairing these range ovens, a great many of our service calls dealt with heating issues with this particular model.
At the first sign of malfunction, the service technician absolutely should have unplugged or somehow disabled the oven before leaving the home. If the technician was not qualified to repair the oven, he or she should have seen to it that someone was dispatched who could do the repair. Either way, there is never an excuse for leaving a customer’s defective oven connected if it can’t be fully repaired during that visit.
The steps that any technician could have taken to assure the safety of the customer and his family are actually quite simple. The technician should turn the product off, and then switch the power off at the breaker panel for the oven. They should have then labelled and tagged the oven to not be operated until it had been properly serviced by a qualified professional. Then, advise the homeowner to not operate the oven and to obtain service from someone qualified. Further assessment of the breaker panels and the electrical diagram will help determine precisely what was wrong with the oven.