PITTSBURGH — The attorney representing a Monessen woman who suffered first- and second-degree burns to the left side of her face and head allegedly because of a malfunction in her electric blanket has filed dozens of similar cases nationwide.
Melissa Stima filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleging manufacturing negligence by Sunbeam Products. She is seeking damages of more than $250,000 and any further relief the court deems appropriate.
Stima is being represented by George E. McLaughlin of the Warhauer McLaughlin Law Group, P.C., in Denver. McLaughlin, who estimates that he has litigated more than 75 similar cases against Sunbeam and other manufacturers of electric blankets and heating pads across the country, says his client's injuries required medical treatment.
“The young lady fell asleep with her electric blanket, and she woke up with burn marks on her face from having lain on the blanket. It heated while she was sleeping to the point where it left visible burn marks,” McLaughlin told the Pennsylvania Record.
Sunbeam Products Inc. was the defendant in a class action lawsuit filed in 2004 in an Arkansas state court that alleged that safety circuits on the company's electric blankets and mattress pads were malfunctioning, making them likely to cause fires.
While Sunbeam denied at the time that its products were unsafe, the company agreed to a settlement in the case. Sunbeam has since updated its safety circuitry, implementing technology designed to prevent fires, whether from customer misuse or manufacturing defect.
“The blankets by design are supposed to be self-limiting in temperature, and should not heat above a temperature that would potentially cause a fire,” McLaughlin noted.
While there was no fire in Stima's case, and while the exact cause of her injuries is not certain, McLaughlin asserts that normal usage of an electric blanket should never result in fire or a burn injury of any kind to the user.
“We contend that shouldn't happen if the product is properly manufactured, the material covering the heating element is the proper density, and the circuitry is working the way it's supposed to,” McLaughlin said.
“You shouldn't fall asleep and wake up with burns on your body. My client is entitled to be compensated for the injuries she sustained.”