On December 28, 2005, David Calder tried to start a fire in his wood-burning stove in his trailer home—by inserting the nozzle of a $3.99 gas can into the stove to pour gas onto the fire, which Calder admitted was "stupid." (The container itself had "KEEP AWAY FROM FLAMES, PILOT LIGHTS, STOVES, HEATERS, ELECTRIC MOTORS, AND OTHER SOURCES OF IGNITION." impressed into the plastic; nevertheless, Calder included a failure-to-warn claim in his suit.) The resulting catastrophe killed his two-year-old daughter and severely burned Calder. This was, Calder argued, the fault of Blitz USA, the manufacturer of the gas can, for not including more idiot-proofing, though no gas container could reasonably protect against the idiocy of Calder's actions. A Clinton-appointed federal district judge refused to throw the case out, and refused to let Blitz USA argue the "state-of-the-art" product liability defense or argue that it complied with government regulations for the manufacture of gas cans. A sympathetic jury found millions of dollars of damages, and blamed Blitz USA to the tune of 70% of the damages. So Blitz USA, which used to employ 117 people at a factory in Oklahoma to manufacture about 75% of the gas cans sold in the US, is liquidating in bankruptcy, and Americans will have to get their gas cans from Chinese manufacturers—or resort to even more unsafe containers like milk jugs if there is a gas-can shortage during this year's hurricane season. So trial lawyer greed and a trial-lawyer-friendly judicial appointment has cost jobs, made Americans less safe, and increased carbon emissions from the need to import bulky gas cans from overseas. [Tulsa World via @billchilds; Calder v. Blitz USA 10th Circuit brief]
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