Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and co-sponsor Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) today introduced legislation to protect gasoline can manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. These companies are vulnerable to litigation due to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's failure to issue safety standards for their product. The bill would mandate safety standards so that gas can companies can obtain liability insurance to defend themselves against baseless lawsuits. Cole previously introduced the legislation last year.
Rep. Cole commented: "No American company should be forced into bankruptcy for manufacturing a safe product that a handful of people used irresponsibly. It's a shame to have to legislate common sense, but it's necessary in this case. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found no need to issue safety standards for a product as low risk as gas cans because it could not anticipate that adults would pour gas directly from the cans onto open fires and then sue the gas can manufacturers. Establishing a formal safety standard for gas cans will help faultless companies like Blitz USA defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits."
Rep. Mullin stated: "This legislation will provide some much needed legal certainty to manufacturers of portable gas containers. Due to unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits, Blitz USA, at one time a major employer in Miami, Oklahoma, was forced to close its doors. It is my hope that other companies can avoid the same fate through this sensible piece of legislation. At this time of economic uncertainty, we need to work with business owners to retain jobs in rural Oklahoma. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation with Representative Tom Cole and look forward to working to achieve its passage."
Miami, Oklahoma's Blitz USA, the largest manufacturer of portable fuel containers, announced in July 2012 that it could not emerge from Chapter 11 because of the litigation environment. Since 2001, Blitz has had to deal with 41 separate cases alleging a "design defect" with portable fuel containers, most of which are due to adults pouring gasoline from the gas can onto fires.
In 1980, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) denied a petition to issue consumer product safety standard for gasoline cans. The CPSC concluded that "current information does not indicate that the design or performance of gas cans presents an unreasonable risk of injury" and further stated their belief that "the majority of accidents occur because of the way gasoline and containers are used around ignition sources." H.R. 1456 would not eliminate litigation against gas can manufacturers or the retailers that sell them but would made all applicable voluntary fuel container standard specifications mandatory, which will 1) ensure that all containers purchased in the U.S. comply with the most up-to-date safety requirements; and 2) may bring greater legal certainty to the gas can industry.