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November 12, 2014 |


A butane tank ruptured while employees in the basement of a retail giant were trying to cook eggs before the store opened. Several people were burned, with one employee suffering burns to her face. Simple workplace activities can sometimes lead to an unexpected personal injury. Whether you were on the clock or not, if you’ve been hurt you should contact a Chicago personal injury attorney who can explain your options.

Initial reports indicated that several employees of a retail giant were in the store’s basement doing a cooking demonstration when a butane tank burst. Over time the story changed, and it appears the employees may have been trying to make a quick breakfast before the store opened. Witnesses said the workers initially tried to cook over an induction stove, but it appears they tried to use a ceramic pan that will not heat over an induction stove top.

Switching to a camping-style butane cooker, an employee began to heat up a pan, but the butane tank ruptured violently. It is believed that the tank might have been heated up due to accidental exposure to the induction stove prior to being attached to the cooking device. At least four people were injured, with one employee receiving burns to the face. Emergency teams responded to care for the injured victims.

Many questions emerge when these types of incidents arise. Was store management aware of this early morning cooking activity? Were the employees poorly supervised or trained? Was there a defect in the butane tank or the cooker? Although reports lack details, there are many potential points of failure that might have led to the injuries.

The employees who handled the butane tank may be partially responsible for their own injuries and the injuries of their coworkers. The tank may have been carelessly placed on an induction stove, or an employee may have improperly attached the butane canister to the camping cooker.

The store may also be to blame if the store authorizes these cooking events. When a company authorizes its employees to engage in potentially dangerous activities, that store may be responsible for the employee’s actions under the theory of respondeat superior. This theory is based on a legal maxim that means Let the master answer. Under most circumstances when an employer authorizes an employee to act, that employer does so in order to derive some benefit from the employee. Since the store generally benefits from its employee’s actions, it may incur some responsibility when those actions go awry.

Even if the events were not authorized, the store may have failed to properly train and supervise its employees. Often in a high-end retail environment, certain employees are trained to demonstrate equipment. If the employee in question was trained to operate the butane camper stove, that training may have been inadequate. Negligent training practices could have led to this unfortunate event.

Negligence is when one party owes a duty to protect another party but fails in that duty, leading to an injury. An employer that sells potentially dangerous equipment usually has a duty to train its employees about safety. If the store improperly trained the employees who were involved, the store may be liable for damages.

Even if the store did not authorize the activity, if these events routinely occur under the store’s nose, the store may be liable for failing to supervise its employee’s actions. A business is not usually allowed to turn a blind eye to unauthorized risks taken by employees, and the store may still be exposed to negligence claims.

Finally, the manufacturer of the butane tank or the camping stove may be liable for the injuries. Manufacturing defects include a wide range of mechanical problems, ranging from poor design to bad welding. Improper labeling can also be a manufacturing defect. If the butane tank required a special motion, such as twisting or other actions to secure it to the cooker, the manufacturer should have clearly labeled the cooker or butane tank. Manufacturing defects can even extend to the instruction booklet that comes with an item. If instructions for a potentially hazardous device are erroneous or unclear, the manufacturer may be liable for subsequent injuries.

A personal injury case often ties together a number of possible sources of injury. If you’ve been harmed, you should seek advice from an Illinois personal injury attorney who understands the complexity of injury cases. Contact the knowledgeable Chicago workplace accident attorneys at Cavanagh Sorich Law Group.

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