My daughter was sprayed with gasoline when the pump's hose broke...

by Kevin
(Bluefield, West Virginia)

My daughter is 26 years old and is a sales rep. She lives in Virginia and she was pumping her own gas in Bluefield, West Virginia at a Sunoco Station. The pump she was using burst at the hose and she and her car were saturated with gasoline before the emergency shutoff could be activated.

When she notified the Franchise owner of the Station who was present he barely spoke English, offered very little or no assistance, and would not provide his name. Another patron assisted my daughter and the owner proceeded to light a cigarette in the vicinity of the spilled gas and pump area, claiming he had to.

When the other customer questioned his actions he said he was so flustered by the accident that he needed a cigarette. He also indicated that the very same thing had happened the week before to another patron.

My daughter called Sunoco and they got back to her and said that there was indeed a work order completed the previous week on another pump for the same reason, and that the company who repaired the pump is responsible for the damages. She was forced to drive an hour home in gasoline-soaked clothing and her car wreaks of gasoline three days later.

I live in New Jersey, otherwise I would have been in the owner's face as soon as I was notified. My questions are as follows:

First and foremost, is there any health threat to my daughter? After reading the article regarding the women in Florida I am a little concerned.

Second, who is responsible for the damages? Her clothes and shoes are ruined, her car stinks of gasoline, and again I am now concerned about her health. Should she be contacting a lawyer? And what is Sunoco's culpability in this case? Are these pumps not subject to regular inspections?

Unfortunately she took no pictures and did not get the name of the person who assisted her. She was also charged for all the gasoline pumped onto the ground and the owner would not credit her card or reimburse her. Her car has a 16 gallon tank and approximately 50 gallons was pumped (she arrived with a half full tank).

Your response would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "My daughter was sprayed with gasoline when the pump's hose broke...":

Kevin (Bluefield, West Virginia):

Let's answer your questions one at a time...

First: We aren't physicians. Therefore we aren't the ones to ask if there is a health threat after being soaked in gasoline. You must convince your daughter to seek medical care. She should have gone directly to the hospital after being soaked in gasoline. If not immediately, then as soon as she arrived home. If she hasn't yet seen her doctor, tell her to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Second: The gas station owner is primarily responsible. Sunoco is secondarily responsible. They can take the position they aren't, and the pump repair company is, but they would be wrong. If your daughter were to file lawsuit against Sunoco and the gas station owner, it would be up to Sunoco and the station owner to "cross-claim" against the repair company, effectively bringing them into the lawsuit as parties.

Third: It is a good idea for your daughter to consult with several personal injury attorneys. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation. In the event your daughter has sustained injuries, you may find an attorney who will accept her case.

Fourth: Premises Liability

The Sunoco Corporation and the gas station owner are subject to the legal doctrine of Premises Liability. This doctrine states property owners and managers of real property must do everything within reason to assure the property is safe for all those who are legally upon it.

When a property owner or manager fails to do so, and as direct result a person is injured or sustains property damage, the property owner and/or manager may become liable for that person's losses, including medical bills and reimbursement for damaged property.

In the hopeful event your daughter has not sustained any permanent injuries, the gas station owner and Sunoco should at a minimum be responsible for the cost of your daughter's clothing and for the repair to the inside of her car.

Contact the Sunoco Corporation and explain what happened. Sunoco may not be aware of the problem with the pumps, and certainly not with the circumstances of the event.

Your statement "I live in New Jersey, otherwise I would have been in the owner's face," is inappropriate. It implies you would be unnecessarily confrontational. In the event of a lawsuit, your statement would likely be restated to a judge or jury, which could diminish an amount of sympathy or empathy the jury might have for your daughter.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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