Second Degree Burns Caused by a Halogen Lamp...

by Upset Mother

My daughter and I were shopping in a local store looking at desk lamps. One was a goose neck 40w halogen lamp that was clamped on to the front of a shelf. My daughter went to adjust the neck of the lamp (as per the design) and it suddenly came off the shelf and started to fall.

In order to stop the fall she went to catch the lamp and received second degree burns on her hand (halogen lights are extremely hot). Her hand was blistering, she was in excruciating pain and was crying.

The store manager immediately said they would take care of all medical costs and I rushed her to the emergency room. I sent a letter of demand to the store along with itemized invoices and receipts along with additional compensation for her pain and suffering (in the amount of five times our actual costs and my lost wages).

I've spoken with their insurance adjuster who informed me that the store feels this is a product liability case and I should sue the manufacturer for damages. I reiterated that my letter stated it was negligence on the store's part for leaving the lamp on too long, allowing it to get super hot, and for not fixing it properly to the shelf.

My initial reaction is to contact personal injury counsel. Thoughts, please?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Second Degree Burns Caused by a Halogen Lamp...":

Upset Mother (California):

The claims adjuster is entirely wrong. Although the manufacturer is also liable for your daughter's injuries, the store is as well. There are potentially two cases. One is a product liability case, and the other a negligence case.

You can pursue both entities, or just one, depending upon your tolerance for delays, run-arounds and the preverbal "red tape".

If the adjuster persists in denying your daughter's claim you can certainly consider filing separate Small Claims Court lawsuit. The maximum jurisdictional limit in California's Small Claims Courts is $7,500.00 dollars per case. Depending upon your daughter's medical bills, the Small Claims Court's jurisdictional limits may not be sufficient.

The lawsuit will be based primarily on your daughter's bills. Pain and suffering will be determined not by the measure of your anger with the store and the manufacturer, but instead upon the degree of the burn, the longevity of pain, treatment, recovery time and age of your daughter.

If the pain your daughter suffered amounted to the time she was burned until the time she was treated, you are probably only talking about a few hours. Although having a child suffer for more than a second is any parent's nightmare, the courts will not base your daughter's claim upon the vicarious pain and emotional distress you may have suffered.

Such cases are very rare, and include such matters as a parent seeing their child killed or severally maimed in front of them. Before making a decision about which way you want to pursue the case(s), consult with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to determine if your daughter will suffer a permanent scar.

Take your daughter's medical bills and multiply them by 3x or 4x. The demand you make upon the insurance company should be that amount.

Such a demand will be inclusive of the medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, your daughter's pain and suffering, and, if your daughter is quite young and unable to take care of herself, the amount of wages you may have lost when you took her to be treated and during her recovery period.

If the burn is a very serious one, requiring surgery, or other extraordinary medical measures you can then raise your multiple to 5x or 6x, or a little higher. Regrettably that may be all the compensation you will probably be able to secure. It would also be strongly advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney.

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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