Coleman Sued Over Hazardous Heaters

Two lawsuits filed last month in federal court in Washington State seek to hold Coleman responsible for a series of carbon-monoxide-related deaths. At issue are Coleman’s PowerMate 5045 propane heaters, which plaintiffs claim have a defect that “produces deadly levels of carbon monoxide.”

Coleman, a division of Jarden Corporation, is one of the most popular brands of outdoor and camping equipment. The first suit against the company was filed on behalf of a 5-year-old boy who lost his parents and his sister to CO poisoning while they were sleeping this past May. The other was filed by a woman whose husband and father both died from carbon monoxide poisoning on a hunting trip in September. In both cases, the Coleman heater had been employed. (Coleman has discontinued production of the allegedly faulty model, but roughly 1 million of those heaters, or similarly designed ones, remain in use.)

Seattle attorney Jeffery Campiche, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, cited “Coleman’s callous disregard of the carbon monoxide deaths.” “Humans cannot detect carbon monoxide,” he notes. “It is colorless, odorless and flavorless. If Coleman cared about the lives of the people who buy their products, they would recall their deadly heaters and snap on an ODS (oxygen depletion sensor). That simple fix would cost Coleman little and require minimal effort. Instead, their dangerous heaters have brought heartbreak to wives, husbands, parents, brothers, sisters, and children left to deal with unnecessary tragedy.”

Added plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Blue, “The dangers of CO poisoning have been well known for centuries. Oxygen Depletion Sensor technology has been in use for 50 years. If Coleman spent even a fraction of their marketing budget on making these heaters safe, lives would be saved.” Blue also claimed that “safe, alternative designs were available to Coleman that would have shut off the heaters before they produced fatal levels of carbon monoxide.”

Coleman has been facing an increasing amount of scrutiny over the propane heaters. In the small town of Packwood, Washington, seven people have died due to CO poisoning, including five last year, and each of the victims had used a Coleman heater. Families of the Packwood victims have sent a letter to the Consumer Safety Protection Commission asking for a mandatory recall of the products.

Coleman has already reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed on behalf of two victims from Packwood, although terms of that settlement are not known.

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