Defects in aquarium heater caused house fire, negligence suit says

By Jim Boyle | Sep 10, 2014

The manufacturers of a heater for home aquariums have been sued for damages to a Philadelphia residence allegedly caused when one of the devices caught fire, according to court documents filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Allstate Insurance agent Burton Jenkins filed the suit, accusing United Pet Group (owner of Marineland Acquarium Products), Tetra Holdings, Worldwide Aquarium & Pet Center, Michelle Enterprises and Italy-based Newa Tecno Industria of playing a part in the manufacture, distribution, marketing and sale of the product in 2012.

According to the suit, the Marineland aquarium was purchased by John Sullick and installed in his apartment. On July 25, 2012, the heater burst into flames, causing damage to Sullick's home and to a neighbor's.

Jenkins' insurance agency covered the cost for the damage pursuant to its contract, paying out more than $35,000, the suit says. The agency now seeks compensatory and punitive damages less than $50,000 on 12 separate counts, three for each defendant including breach of warranty, strict liability and negligence.

The complaint says that each defendant failed to properly protect the consumer and other bystanders from the consequences of a defective heater. Each company knew or should have known of the defects and failed to inform the Sullick that it was unsafe, it says.

Sullick has also filed a product liability suit against the same companies, seeking damages in excess of $75,000 from each defendant on similar counts. He says that the device was installed and prepared for its intended use, and that the manufacturers breached their warranty by supplying a defective heater deemed safe on the packaging.

Jenkins is represented by Paul Sandler of Sandler & Marchesini, and Sulick is represented by Daniel DeLuca of Nelson Levine de Luca & Hamilton.

The case ID number is 140800474.

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