Peterson v. Highlands Viera West LLC, et al - $1,515,650.00

Attorney David Alpizar was able to secure a $1,515,650.00 settlement in a case involving serious burn injuries from a blowback fire from a built in propane grill in a common area of an apartment complex.

The incident occurred on October 29, 2011, at approximately 3:50 pm at the Plaintiff's apartment complex. The Plaintiff left his apartment and walked down to the community summer kitchen to utilize the community public propane grill. It was observed that the lid was closed and two (2) of the four (4) flame control knobs on the grill were missing. Upon pressing the ignite button, the Plaintiff experienced a blowback flash fire from the grill, coupled with hearing a whoosh noise. The Plaintiff felt the lower half of his body on fire, ran out of the summer kitchen and jumped in the pool. He was air transported to the burn unit of Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted for two weeks. The Plaintiff sustained significant and permanent injuries with first degree burns to his neck and second degree burns to his genitalia, both hands, thighs, shins, and feet.

Under Florida law, a property owner has a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition, to keep the premises free of dangerous conditions and to provide adequate warning or notice of potentially dangerous conditions. This is particularly the case for conditions that are inherently unsafe or dangerous that are not readily apparent to the tenant, such as a noxious gas like propane. Obviously, this duty and responsibility would extend to common areas that are in locations outside of a private apartment residence which is much more accessible to the landlord and their agents.

The property owner failed to provide any sort of notice, instruction or warning about the grill or how to use it. Additionally, during the deposition of the apartment complex manager, it became clear that the manager did not know how to use the grill and had no knowledge on how to maintain or clean the grill. The maintenance employees testified that they had concerns about the grill and issues it was having, fearing that it could hurts someone.

During an inspection of the gill, it also became clear that the contractor and installer failed to install the common area built in propane grill in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Further, the architect that designed the common area summer kitchen and built in grill unit did not review the manufacturer’s recommendations when it was designed, despite knowing the exact type of grill that was being installed.

A lawsuit was filed against the apartment complex as well as all the parties involved in the design, construction and installation of the summer kitchen and built in grill. The case went through multiple mediations, whereby several of the Defendants recognized it was in their best interest to settle. Immediately after taking the deposition of the fire expert in Texas hired by the general contractor, the remaining Defendant finally conceded that the grill was not installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and decided to settle.

 

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