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The Wall Street Journal recently took up the issue of "job losses" being caused by the tort system with its editorial on the bankruptcy of Blitz, a gas can manufacturer. However, it seems that they missed the bigger picture. There are a number of factors that were not taken into consideration.

The motives for Blitz refusing to make their product safer will certainly be revealed as the facts are discovered. But as a trial attorney who has seen cases involving short-term corporate greed outweighing the need to provide a safe product to consumers, I imagine this case may turn out to be the same. We already know from a former Blitz employee some of the background on what took place at Blitz. So let's first look at some of the motives for Blitz to declare bankruptcy and what the WSJ "missed" or left out of their reporting.

First, let's be clear that the demand for gas cans has not diminished. People will want to buy gas cans and some smart company will produce them. There are other great American companies, such as the No-Spill Gas can, that supply safe gas cans, and make a profit doing so. Lucky for the public there are companies like No-Spill, who make gas cans that have been shown to be safer than the ones Blitz manufactured. Thus, demand is not gone. Jobs are not gone. Just a matter of which company will employ people to make gas cans to meet the demand. These jobs are not gone, they are just going to be transferred somewhere else. Perhaps to another company related to Blitz's corporate owners or to a competitor of Blitz, happy to see Blitz out of the market. That part of the story remains to be told.

There was something very real that was eliminated by the Blitz bankruptcy. Something that should anger the public. The real thing that was eliminated by the Blitz bankruptcy was not jobs – the jobs will go elsewhere – consumers will buy from someone else. Motive #1 – eliminate the rights of past victims. What was eliminated was Blitz's obligation to pay for the damages that they have been accused of causing to burn victims as a result of a product proven to be less safe than other products on the market. You can read about these victims here, here, and here. And you can watch Wal-Mart laugh about these victims here. And in the end, who will be left paying the price for the lost productivity and medical bills from these harmed victims? Not Blitz. Makes you angry, right?

In addition, the Blitz bankruptcy is being used to try to eliminate future claims by pre-empting them through Federal law. That is Motive #2 – eliminate the rights of future victims. By seeking to modify The Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act, the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association (PFCMA) is seeking changes to the law so that they can escape future liability for injuries they will cause.

Now, let us turn to whether gas cans are inherently dangerous, or whether only through misuse can these horrible injuries occur. That is what the Wall Street Journal and Blitz want you to believe.

According to former and 17-year Blitz employee, William Bailey, Blitz could have made their gas cans safer but made a conscious decision not to do so. Bailey was a Production Supervisor, Warehouse Manager, Quality Tech, and a Plant Manager for Blitz. As such, he knew the company inside and out. Bailey, in an open comment to The Wall Street Journal posted the following important facts that were overlooked by the WSJ in their original article. He stated as follows:

  • As an employee of Blitz I was instructed to destroy documents and e-mails. I wrote a letter to ROCKY FLICK the CEO of Blitz expressing my concerns about destruction of documents.
  • I knew that Blitz was breaking the law by destroying evidence and I pretty much called Flick on the carpet for this. Once I was terminated, I immediately called Diane Brenaman to help the victims who were using Blitz USA's faulty gas can containers.
  • Blitz USA has never used a true FMEA for these gas can designs so that all dangers would be addressed.
  • Blitz USA never had a Formal Documented Quality system in place.
  • Blitz USA could have spent roughly $250,000 for tooling to implement a flame arrestor on their gas cans but chose to spend millions defending their position.
  • Blitz USA had a metal fabrication shop that could have produced these 3 cent arrestors at minimal expense.
  • Blitz USA could have recalled all their spouts and sent out new ones with flame arrestors. This would have been more cost effective than spending money on defense attorneys.
  • Blitz had used of unapproved resin for 20+ years, distorted warning labels on the cans water spots, had excess regrind used beyond UL spec., sold gas cans under minimum weight, wall thickness, sold gas cans to California with falsified date wheels ($90,000 fine paid to CARB), had 5 defective spout designs in the last 20 years and none had flame arrestors, and had a 1 million can re-call in California for not meeting CARB requirements.

Well, with all of these dangerous products already sold, sitting in peoples homes all across the USA, is it any wonder that the corporate owners of Blitz would want to eliminate future liability? Let's keep our eyes dry for Blitz. Save the tears for the victims past and future, who may never have a day in court due to Blitz running from their responsibility. They refused to make their product safe, maybe worse, and now they are making the victims of the unsafe design pay the price for that decision. There are millions of these unsafe products in homes all across the United States, but when the next one explodes, and the next one after that, Blitz will have wiped their hands clean of any duty to compensate those harmed.

18 Comments

  1. Michael: An extremely important and well-written post. The Wall Street Journal needs to follow-up their original story with an even bigger one, apologizing for not doing adequate research on the topic and on the company it shouldn't have pitied.

    I fear, however, that your correction of the record will be ignored and the original story will be the image that becomes ingrained in people's minds. That is where the Wall Street Journal must come in and correct the record, exactly where it was originally reported.

    As the facts and atrocities become more known, all of us have a duty to report them. If Blitz lands on its feet, establishes operations elsewhere, and continues manufacturing defective and dangerous products, we need to be there to report on those efforts and the dangers posed by those products. This will require vigilance and a continuing group effort to protect the public from corporate predators like Blitz.

    That you used your bully pulpit to not only expose Blitz but to compliment a competitor for manufacturing safer products is to your credit and theirs. Congratulations to you and to No-Spill for helping to keep all of us safe.

    Regards, Mark

  2. Gravatar for Lewis

    The lawyer that is writing this article is apparently sympathetic toward the lawyers that were trying to take Blitz USA for everything they were worth. Most lawyers are snakes. This is a classic case of someone sueing a company because they burnt their tongue on hot coffee. Who would have ever guessed that coffee is hot? Who would have ever guessed that gasoline is flammable? Here's a fact for you: Gas Cans DO NOT EXPLODE under normal conditions. In order for something like this to explode it needs to be under tremendous internal pressure. BUT, these gas cans supposedly leak fumes, right? So, if they leak fumes then how was there any pressure inside the can for it to explode? The real reason why people may have burned themselves is because they got GAS too close to FIRE. Plain and simple. We're not a nanny state and we can't protect people from making idiotic decisions. Here's one example of a case that Blitz USA lost: A guy starts a fire in his wood-burning stove in his trailer. He then takes a gas can (full of gasoline) into his trailer and pours it on the fire (smart move). His trailer then catches on fire as he runs out his front door, not even thinking to grab his little daughter. She burned to death. Who is at fault here? The maker of the gasoline? The maker of the trailer? The maker of the gas can? God himself? No, the obvious idiot is at fault here and should be in prison for murder.

  3. Gravatar for Wayne parsons

    Lewis, thanks for sharing your knowledge of plastic gas cans. I can tell that you care about this issue. I also agree that there are a lot of really poorly informed people out there. I am trying to figure out where you fit in that spectrum of people.

    I have a few questions for you: Question #1: What is a flame arrester (do you have a photo of a flame arrester)? Question #2: Does Blitz put flame arresters in any of their gas cans (I hear that Blitz has 150 million gas cans out there in homes across the country)? Question #3: Do any manufacturers of plastic gas cans install flame arresters in their cans? Question #4: Do you think the "No Spill" gas can manufacturer from Kansas is a stupid company? No-Spill puts a flame arrester in all of their plastic gas cans and unlike Blitz their customers are not being burned by gas can explosions (are you sure that a gas can cannot blow up from a spark? My sister has a No-Spill gas can in her storage shed. Was she wrong to buy a No-Spill gas can wiuth a flame arrester? And will a gas can always blow up if you pour a little gas on the wood to rekindle a weak fire? blow up if it is used to pour gas on a fire? Question #5: Are all of the gas can manufacturers who put flame aresters in the spouts of their gas cans stupid? Question #6: If you made plastic gas cans (who do you work for Lewis ....? Come on, who paid you to write this comment?) would you insist that no gas can made by your company have a flame arrester installed in the spout? Question #7: Do flame arresters work? How? Question #8: Can you supply a reference for your statement that a spark will never ignite the vapor inside a gas can? [Lewis, Lewis ..... a 12 year old boy is going to suffer burns over more than 60% of his body because of you .....]

    Do you disagree with NOTES FROM THE BUNKER that:

    "Blitz made gas cans that were, in my opinion, of mediocre efficacy. However, they were cheap, widely available, and came in various sizes…"?

    I have more questions but I want to see your answers first. I live in Hawaii. I am an attorney. My name is Wayne Parsons and I live at 3907 Koko Drive, Honolulu, HI 96816-4306. I work with the community here on many safety and prevention projects. I make no money on exploding gas cans.

    How do you make money?

    You can call me at 808-753-0290. I'd like to chat with you.

    Does anyone know "LEWIS"? I supsect that we all know who you are LEWIS. You would be funny if this wasn't such a serious subject. Shame.

  4. Gravatar for Michael Monheit

    Wayne,

    [...And I am sure that is your real name, unlike perhaps "LEWIS"...]

    Thanks for the questions you have asked "LEWIS." I wonder if he will answer even any of them. OR tell us who he really is and where he works! I think that deep down, Lewis is probably a nice person, but significantly mis-informed about the product he may have helped make and the owners of the company he now tries to defend. My guess is that Lewis is from Miami, OK or a neighboring area like Fairland, and worked for Blitz or worked at a local store that sold Blitz products, and.or has family members that worked there. Sadly, due to Blitz not making a safe product, either he is now out of a job because of the bankruptcy, or still works for an entity that is going to emerge from what once was Blitz.

    But as I mentioned, I just think that "Lewis" is lacking full information. If he had all of the facts, he would be upset that Blitz did not take steps to make their product as safely as for example No-Spill has done. And he would be interested in the real motives for the bankruptcy - to clean the slate of all past and future responsibility for harm, so that someone "new" company can take the Blitz molds and equipment and use that to manufacturer the product. He should be upset to hear that in all likelihood that the jobs are not being eliminated, just moved into some other place and given to some other people. Remember, the demand for gas cans has not diminished. Someone is going to take the equipment, hire people, and manufacture the gas cans.

    Lewis should learn more about the people running Blitz and should follow the money trail to see where that leads. Lewis should read what Mr. Bailey (who worked for the company for 17 years) had to say about the destruction of documents. William Bailey states that he was "very much aware of their deceptive practices, faulty product design, and some of their litigation strategies" of Blitz. - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444025204577546950866595374.html?KEYWORD=

    If Lewis reads this, he will learn about allegations of, and I again quote Mr. Bailey's comment in The Wall Street Journal web site:

    "fraudulent practices by Blitz and their managers.

    1. Use of un approved resins for 20+ years

    2. Distorted warning labels on the cans “water spots'

    3. Excess regrind used beyond UL spec.

    4. Selling gas cans under minimum weight, wall thickness

    6. Selling gas cans to California with falsified date wheels ($90,000 fine paid to CARB)

    7. 5 defective spout designs in the last 20 years and none had flame arrestors

    8. 1 million can re-call in California for not meeting CARB requirements"

    Again, Wayne, thanks for your comments and questions. The public, and Lewis, deserve to know the answers and the truth about this product and those who owned and ran the company.

  5. Gravatar for Jerry

    Hello, my name is William Bailey. I was employed with Blitz USA for 17 years. As an employee of Blitz I was instructed to destroy documents and e-mails. I wrote a letter to ROCKY FLICK the CEO of Blitz expressing my concerns about destruction of documents. 30 days later I was laid off and offered a severance package under the condition of a confidentiality agreement. I refused the package, felt betrayed, and felt t that I was being fired illegally.

    I knew that Blitz was breaking the law by destroying evidence and I pretty much called Flick on the carpet for this. Once I was terminated, I immediately called Diane Brenaman to help the victims who were using Blitz USA's faulty gas can containers.

    Why did it take your termination to do the right thing?

  6. Gravatar for Michael Monheit

    Jerry,

    It sounds like Mr. Bailey did try to do something before being fired.

    "I wrote a letter to ROCKY FLICK the CEO of Blitz expressing my concerns about destruction of documents. 30 days later I was laid off and offered a severance package under the condition of a confidentiality agreement. I refused the package, felt betrayed, and felt t that I was being fired illegally."

    He was fired for doing the right thing - speaking up about the destruction of documents.

  7. Gravatar for Jerry

    And yet he didn't notify anyone before he was terminated, his statement clearly states "Once I was terminated, I immediately called Diane Brenaman to help the victims who were using Blitz USA's faulty gas can containers." So it reads as if he did it only after he stopped getting paid by blitz. You can see why I asked the question if you actually read the comment. "Calling a CEO to the carpet" does nothing. Any CEO knows whats going on in his company. I guess I should have asked would he have called Diane if he would not have been terminated? His comment says no.

  8. Gravatar for William Bailey

    I felt that I was doing the right thing by calling him onto the carpet. Looking back on it...you are right. I should have done more a long time ago. I should have reported it outside of Blitz USA to other authorities. I should have said something a long time ago. Again my fear was losing my job. In the end I lost my job anyway. I worked in the quality department and my job was to help make things better. My mentality was to do the right thing. Employees put a lot of trust in their managers, I spoke up and they fired me because I wanted to do the right thing.

    I am the first to admit when I screw up…and yes I screwed up.

  9. Gravatar for Jerry

    The question was, would you have called Diane without blitz terminating you. It is easy to say yes to this question after the fact to try to feel better about the fact you knew about a potential issue with the product. The fact of the matter is you are just as responsible for the accidents as Blitz. Your knowledge of an issue puts you in the same position as the CEO you called to the carpet. Your no hero sir. The victims were not in your equation when you eventually called diane. Your merely a disgruntled employee who decided to get even with company who fired him.

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