A Typical Case...

Mr. & Mrs. Nash owned a $400,000 home at the foot of a mountain near Boulder, CO. It was a very nice property, including a nearby "Mother-In-Law" guesthouse.

Mr. & Mrs. Nash asked their friend and co-worker, Lisa, to house-sit while the Nashes left for a European vacation. Lisa invited her friend, Paula, to stay for the weekend. On Friday night, Paula was given the master bedroom, and Lisa took one of the twin beds in the spare room. Lisa chose not to turn on the electric baseboard heat; instead, she opted for the warmth of the electric blanket already on the bed.

At 3:00 a.m., Lisa's feet became uncomfortably warm. She woke up and soon discovered why: The end of her bed was on fire! Lisa ran from the bedroom, screaming to wake Paula. When Lisa returned to the bedroom, the bed was fully engulfed in flames.

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In this case, very little was recovered from the fire:

  • Electric blanket remains, including fine strands of the heating elements...

  • ...two melted plastic controllers...

  • ...and three thermostats, about 1" x ¼" long (two are shown here).

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    On the legal front, the attorney who retained Anderson Engineering manages to obtain an out-of-court settlement with Fieldcrest Cannon. Fieldcrest Cannon agrees to pay a nominal settlement just to get out of a lawsuit. Fieldcrest Cannon also agrees to put one of their in-house engineers (a specialist in these kinds of thermostats) at the disposal of the Anderson Engineering team. The Fieldcrest Cannon engineer provides Anderson Engineering with documentation, specifications, and other expertise on the failure mode of electric blanket thermostats.

    With Fieldcrest Cannon now essentially on the same side as Anderson Engineering, the case goes to trial.

    Engineer Beth Anderson provided expert witness testimony during the trial. Her job was to present the forensic facts to the jury, supporting Anderson Engineering's claim that the fire was caused by the failure of the thermostat integral to the Sunbeam electric blanket. Often the hardest part of expert witness testimony is presenting difficult evidence in a way that a jury of non-experts can understand it.

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