Families may be able to sue a manufacturer when a fire is caused by a mattress igniting.
These fires need to be investigated to determine if the mattress met federal flammability standards and if required testing was done before it was put on the market.
“Flammable mattresses were one of the primary sources of fires prior to the enactment of the federal standard,” said Fred Pritzker, one of our lead lawyers for these lawsuits. “There is still a problem because some manufacturers don’t adequately test these products before they are sold to consumers for use in homes, hospitals, hotels and motels, and furnished apartments.”
Most of these lawsuits involve wrongful death claims. A sleeping person whose mattress ignites does not have much chance of survival.
What if the person who dies was smoking? “In these cases, it is imperative that we do an independent investigation to determine exactly how the blaze started and if a defective product was involved,” said Fred.
The Law Requires Mattresses to be Tested
Federal law (16 CFR 1632) requires mattresses to be tested to make sure they are not going to ignite too easily. The testing is supposed to be conducted on prototype designs, well before the mattresses are sold to consumers.
The standard requires testing that determines the mattresses’ ignition resistance when exposed to a lighted cigarette.
Tests measure the ignition resistance by exposing surfaces to a lighted cigarette. So the top, taped edge and quilted or tufted areas are tested by placing a lit cigarette on that area. The standard also requires a 2-sheet test where a lit cigarette is placed between the sheets. At least 18 cigarettes need to be burned on each test product.
The area tested pasts the test if the cigarette does not leave a char length over 2 inches. If the cigarette creates a flame before the char reaches 2 inches, the test should immediately be recorded as a failure.
Who Can a Family Sue for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death?
When there is evidence that a mattress ignited and started a fire, the following generally have the legal right to seek compensation for personal injury or wrongful death:
- Anyone injured in the fire; and
- The families of people tragically killed in the fire (or who died later from burn injuries, smoke inhalation, etc.).
Who can be sued, depends on the facts of the case. Possible responsible parties include:
- The manufacturer;
- The owner of the building (landlord);
- Apartment management company.