Forty-two-year-old man sustained catastrophic burn injuries while filling an underground propane gas tank. Unknown to the man, the underground tank had been inactive for years and had developed a hole.
When the propane was inserted into the tank, it leaked out onto the adjacent ground and was dispersed into the atmosphere through a nearby drain pipe. When the man went to ignite the pool heater’s pilot light, the gas ignited and the man was engulfed in flames. A products liability suit was brought against the tank manufacturer, among others. The manufacturer had marked the tank “AG/UG” indicating it was appropriate for above ground or below ground use. The manufacturer failed, however, to advise installers that the tank was not suitable for underground use unless it was modified with a special coating. Around the time the tank at issue was installed, the manufacturer developed a warning label advising installers of the need for the special coat for underground use. This warning label was not on the tank at issue. The manufacturer made no effort to ascertain whether its customers had the expertise needed to install the underground tanks and made no effort to educate its customers on safe installation practices.