News & Cases

Richard C. Watters and Douglas L. Gordon Settle Case for Burn Victim

Richard C. Watters and Douglas L. Gordon of Miles, Sears, & Eanni represented Luis Gutierrez in a personal injury case involving a large fire conflagration that occurred December 10, 2010 on a chicken ranch outside Hanford, California.

Plaintiff Luis Gutierrez, a ranch foreman, was operating a 2-year-old Kubota tractor and pulling behind him a 2010 Poultry House Flame Sanitizer, essentially a large sled holding a 124-gallon propane tank and producing ground-level flames at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Driving through a chicken house, Mr. Gutierrez heard a hissing sound from behind him, and looked over his right shoulder to see a white liquid mist. The mist quickly erupted into flame, so he hit the red (master) control switch located beside him, hoping to turn the machine off. Instead, the flames grew dramatically to hit the ceiling, and suddenly he was on fire. He ran out of the chicken house and jumped into a large puddle to extinguish the flames.

The Flame Sanitizer was designed and manufactured by defendant Flame Engineering and assembled in Hanford by Ed Herriage, an employee of defendant Heritage Operating, L.P. d/b/a/ Coast Gas and Amerigas Propane, L.P. The Flame Sanitizer works off of both vapor propane and liquid propane to power six large burners designed to burn chicken waste in the soil, thereby sanitizing chicken houses. It had been delivered to the Hanford ranch in March 2010, nine months before the fire, and had been used by plaintiff Gutierrez 10 times before the fire date.

The parties largely agree that a large fire occurred and injured Mr. Gutierrez; there is disagreement regarding the cause. There is no dispute that, at some point during the fire sequence, a section of piping (containing the liquid strainer) broke off of the liquid propane valve, causing a significant amount of propane to flow out towards the tractor that was in front of the sanitizer.

The case settled for $1,000,000.00 with Heritage Operating, L.P. d/b/a Coast Gas and Amerigas Propane, L.P.  and for $2,000,000.00 with Flame Engineering, Inc.

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