An improperly secured oven can be a deathtrap, and it’s one most people don’t even notice until it’s too late. Most renters and homeowners rightly leave the installation and repair of gas-burning appliances to the professionals, but they may not know how qualified those professionals really are or what kind of mistakes to check for. As long as the oven in a home heats up correctly and isn’t leaking gas, residents usually won’t even consider the possibility that it could tip over.
Much as they take people by surprise, however, accidents involving stoves tipping over are a known phenomenon. Appliance manufacturers, landlords, and installation technicians know (or should know) about this potential problem and have the power to prevent it, so when a stove tip-over accident does happen, it’s strong grounds for a product liability and/or premises liability lawsuit.
Below, we’ll talk in more detail about range/stove/oven tipping injuries, why they happen, whose responsibility they are to prevent, and how we can help if your family has been affected.
Whenever you’d like to talk to a defective stove injury lawyer about the details of your case, just reach out by phone or through our online chat function.
Stove Tip-Over Accidents Have Been Well Understood for Decades
Relatively light, free-standing stoves have been tipping over and causing injuries for as long as they’ve existed. Like so many patterns of accidents associated with a particular type of consumer product, this issue has occasionally come to the public’s attention, and then been pushed aside again without much actual change within the industry in question.
In 2010, two children were killed in stove tip-over accidents in quick succession, the first in Missouri and the second in Nevada. They were one and two years old.
The following year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published an in-depth study on the issue and began a public awareness campaign, sharing statistics and safety recommendations. According CPSC’s records (which likely do not include all incidents), range, stove, and oven tip-overs caused 38 deaths between 1980 and 2008, as well as 84 injuries between 1980 and 2006. More than half of the deaths were of children five and under.
CPSC noted in its findings that anti-tip brackets — a type of range anti-tip device that secures the free-standing appliance to the wall behind it — have been mandatory since 1991. However, just because manufacturers must include these brackets does not necessarily mean that they will be used. The absence of anti-tip brackets was a consistent factor in the recorded accidents, as well as in the two publicized 2010 fatalities.
In response, CPSC worked with manufacturers to create new voluntarily standards, mostly focusing on additional warning labels, but the problem has continued. The most recent data from CPSC shows ovens still being by far the greatest danger to children in terms of tip-over accidents, accounting for 27 deaths from 2000 through 2019.
The Risks of Oven Tipping Injuries Change with Age
Small children are so especially vulnerable to stove tip-over accidents because an oven door makes a tempting step when the child wants to see or reach something on a kitchen counter. Even though the oven typically weighs significantly more than the child, the door acts as a lever, making the child’s weight sufficient to move the whole appliance. Once the oven falls, however, it’s heavy enough to crush the child.
Older adults are also at elevated risk of oven tipping injuries, because they often need more support when getting up from a sitting or crouching position, and an oven door can look like the most convenient handhold after bending down to reach into a lower cabinet.
Even adults can be pinned by the weight of a fallen oven. In fact, in the CPSC’s findings, there were five instances of an adult being trapped for an extended period of time under an oven that was still on and burning them.
International and Local Codes Provide Some Protection but Are Often Ignored
In addition to voluntary industry standards, large cooking appliances are subject to building safety codes.
The International Fuel and Gas Code and the International Mechanical Code both require stoves, ovens, and ranges to be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes correctly installing the provided anti-tip brackets. The International Property Maintenance Code also requires these appliances to be maintained in safe working condition, and the International Building Code requires owners to obtain a permit before installing, removing, or altering any flammable gas system, including a gas range. These codes have been adapted into local law in Georgia.
Most regions also require gas ranges to be installed by a licensed plumber, who should understand the importance of anti-tip brackets and how to install them. Even in places where having an unlicensed individual install a gas range is not technically illegal, it generally counts as negligence if something goes wrong, and can void warranties and insurance policies.
In short, when someone suffers a stove injury due to instability and tipping, it’s almost a certainty that the stove was incorrectly installed.
Designers Could Do Much More to Prevent Stove Tip-Over Accidents
Although simply installing anti-tip brackets correctly could prevent nearly all stove tip-over accidents, manufacturers aren’t completely off the hook for the deaths and injuries these accidents cause.
Stove and oven manufacturers know that their products are often incorrectly installed, and that incorrect installation can cost lives. Instead of simply warning people with more labels, there are tangible changes manufacturers could make to their oven designs that would prevent the accidents they know will otherwise happen. For example, many incidents could be prevented by weighting the back of an oven so that it can support the weight of a child on the door, or by including an interlock switch that prevents the oven from working unless it is level and has all safety equipment properly engaged.
CPSC’s recommendations after the 2011 study included adding a mechanism to lock the door in the open position as soon as the oven begins to tilt. This would not prevent all oven tipping injuries, because many of them result from hot pots and pans sliding off of tilting stovetops, but it would at least make it much more difficult for people to become trapped or crushed beneath fallen stoves. Sadly, not even this feature has become a universal standard.
Manufacturers, Installers, Repair Crews, and Landlords Can All Be Liable for Tip-Over Accidents Involving Stoves
When it comes to stove tip-over accidents, there’s plenty of blame to go around. This is bad news in terms of dealing with the problem preventatively, but good news if you’ve already been hurt or lost someone and are contemplating a stove tip-over lawsuit. Even if you were leaning on your oven when the accident happened, or your child was playing unattended in your kitchen, the fact that it was even possible for the whole appliance to tip over means that someone, probably multiple people, took shortcuts that disregarded your safety. This means you’ll have options for pursuing compensation.
Product manufacturers, service providers, and landlords all have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to make sure their products, services, and spaces are safe for their intended uses. When a danger can’t reasonably be eliminated, they have a duty to warn people and provide instructions for minimizing the chances of harm.
So, for example, if a manufacturer sold a stove without adequate warning labels, your landlord bought it and tried to save money by hiring an unlicensed contractor to install it, and the contractor didn’t know what to do with the anti-tip brackets, the manufacturer, the landlord, and the contractor might all be liable for your injuries. The manufacturer would be responsible under product liability for selling a defective oven and/or failure to warn, the landlord would be responsible under premises liability for failing to take normal steps to make sure your kitchen was safe, and the contractor would be responsible for performing dangerously substandard work.
In this scenario, you would be able to name all three as defendants in your lawsuit. In other cases, only one or two of these entities might be responsible for the accident, or there might even be additional negligent parties, such as a repair person who removed the anti-tip brackets during service and didn’t put them back.
It’s always worth examining all possible areas of negligence, rather than simply pursuing the closest and most obvious target. More thorough stove injury lawsuits make for fairer, more thorough results.
As noted above, even stove manufacturers who live up to their duty to warn may still be putting needlessly dangerous products on the market. If your oven came with anti-tip brackets and appropriate warning labels but no further safety mechanisms, you may still have a valid oven product liability case.
It’s important to remember that re-designs in consumer products are, like almost anything in business, a numbers game. If making a change is more expensive than not making one, it won’t be made. By holding manufacturers of dangerous and defective stoves financially accountable, survivors of stove tip-over accidents can help drive change in the industry and protect potential future victims.
The Stoddard Firm Has Experts in Stove Tip-Over Accidents
Because there are so many factors that contribute to stove tip-over accidents, it’s important to make sure you’re working with a defective stove injury lawyer who has the range of knowledge to approach your case from all angles, so that you get the best settlement possible.
The experts at The Stoddard Firm are experienced in product liability, premises liability, and personal injury. We understand the nuances of each relevant area of the law, but we also understand that, at their core, cases of this nature come down to three basic questions:
- Did someone have a duty to protect you? – Your landlord, oven manufacturer, and service personnel all have certain duties to you, and we can explain to a jury exactly what they are.
- Did they fail in that duty? – We’re familiar with what breaches of these duties look like in oven tip-over cases, and can point them out clearly and accurately.
- Did you suffer an injury or loss as a result? – Proving that your injury is real, serious, and the result of the defendant’s negligence is a major part of both winning your case and getting a fair settlement at the end. We excel at making sure judges and juries understand the extent of your injuries and how they will affect your finances and quality of life in the future.
We also specialize in wrongful death cases and can walk you through the process and how it differs from personal injury. For obvious reasons, wrongful death is one of the most emotionally painful kinds of lawsuits from a plaintiff’s perspective, because no settlement can ever come close to repairing that kind of loss, especially when a child is involved.
We’ll do everything possible to hold the entities that hurt your family accountable and get you the compensation you need, so you can focus on grieving and healing.
To begin your free consultation with a qualified defective stove injury lawyer today, just give us a call at 678-RESULT or reach out through our online chat function.