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Allegedly flammable Pop-Tarts are a product liability phenomenon that became a national joke in 1993, when Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry wrote a blisteringly funny article on the subject. Barry focused on the first case, in Springfield, Ohio. But then, last year, came another, in New Jersey. Now, add Fulton County, Georgia, to the Pop-Tart Hall of Flame. In this latest instance, Allstate Insurance Co. has sued on behalf of an insured Georgia-based client, Deanna Robinson. The defendant is the Kellogg Company, maker of numerous varieties of Pop-Tarts. The plaintiffs claim that the toaster treat caused a November 13, 2000, house fire that resulted in $10,742 in property damage. The complaint blames the damage on Kellogg’s “negligently manufactured, flammable Pop-Tarts.” Allstate is also suing the toaster manufacturer, Hamilton Beach/Proctor-Silex Inc. Kellogg, in its response, denies liability and asks the court to award it costs and attorneys’ fees. The company has long maintained that Pop-Tarts are safe and don’t cause fires. Barry found otherwise. In his column, the humorist admitted to a “keen scientific interest in combustible breakfast foods” and de-scribed his own Pop-Tart experiment under “controlled” conditions-i.e., his wife wasn’t home. The experiment, Barry wrote, created “scary flames shooting up 20 to 30 inches out of both toaster slots.” He likened that dramatic moment to Manhattan Project atomic scientists in New Mexico witnessing “the massive blast that erupted from their first crude experimental snack pastry.” The Fulton County litigation is only the latest incidence of alleged flaming Pop-Tarts. Last year a Washington County, New Jersey, couple sued Kellogg’s after a tart left in a toaster set their house ablaze, according to press accounts. In 1993 Thomas Nangle of Springfield, Ohio, who was sued for allegedly causing property damage to a home after his Pop-Tarts caught fire, sued Kellogg’s for the damages. The case was settled, with Kellogg paying out $2,400 for what it characterized as a nuisance suit. Nangle’s attorney had talked about calling Barry as a witness if the case went to trial. In the Fulton County case, Allstate attorney Mike Crawford IV, an associate with Atlanta’s Mary A. Miller & Associates, said he did not have details handy on the local fire when a reporter requested them. But, he said, there was “some evidence suggesting that some of these Pop-Tarts or these toaster pastries have been flammable in the past.” Perhaps Barry will get his day in court after all. This article originally appeared in The Fulton County Daily Report, a sibling publication of Corporate Counsel and a part of American Lawyer Media.

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