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A child who was severely burned when her younger brother dropped a lighter on her dress has been awarded $5 million by a Texas jury in a lawsuit against the maker of the lighter. The defendant, the Bic Pen Corp., will appeal the award in part because, according to a company statement, it was never made clear that the lighter that caused the fire was made by Bic. Brittany Carter was 6 years old when she suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body in the May 27, 1998, accident, which occurred in her family’s apartment in Bay City, Texas. The personal injury and defective-product suit alleged that the lighter was made with an inadequate child-resistant mechanism. Janace Carter for Brittany Carter v. BIC Pen Corp., No. 98-J-0590-C (Matagorda Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). One of Brittany’s lawyers, Dan Worthington of Atlas & Hall in McAllen, Texas, said she is back in school after lengthy hospitalization “but has horrific disfigurement and will have to have more surgery for the scarring.” The other plaintiffs’ attorneys were Worthington’s partner Dan Gurwitz and Dan Shindler of Bay City’s Shindler & Associates. CHILD-PROOFING AN ISSUE “Lots of things played a part,” Worthington said of the jury’s decision, “like the lack of safety testing of BIC lighters, and the severity of Brittany’s burns.” Brittany and her brother Jonas, who was 5 at the time of the accident, were alone in a bedroom melting crayons when Jonas dropped the lighter on his sister. Her dress burst into flame, and she ran about the apartment and was badly burned before an adult could put the fire out. During the trial, an expert witness testified that Bic lighters weren’t child-proofed to specifications set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In addition, Worthington alleged that “BIC tests every lighter it manufactures for flame height and flame color but only tests 50 out of every 4.5 million lighters made to see if they are child-proof.” The jury awarded $1 million for past and future physical and mental anguish, $1 million for past and future physical disfigurement, $1 million for past and future physical impairment and $2 million in punitive damages. Bic’s outside attorneys did not return calls seeking comment. They are Bert Huebner, who has a solo practice in Bay City, and Darrell Barger of Corpus Christi, Texas’ Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern. However, the company, which is based in Milford, Conn., said in a statement it would appeal the jury verdict. “Although this case arose out of a terrible accident, we believe there was overwhelming evidence that BIC was not at fault,” Bic General Counsel Tom Kelleher said in the statement. “The accident involved very young, unsupervised children, playing with fire,” Kelleher said. “In addition, numerous questions were raised during testimony as to whether a BIC brand lighter was even involved. This decision is contrary to more than 135 decisions rendered in BIC’s favor by judges and juries across the country since January 1988.” The statement added: “During the trial, BIC presented detailed, technical evidence that all of its lighters comply with the CPSC child-resistant standard, as well as other safety standards that BIC itself has taken a leadership role in developing.” Worthington said the issue of whether a Bic lighter was involved was mentioned in depositions before trial, but not raised during trial. He also asserted that the boy testified that they were using a white Bic lighter while melting orange crayons when the fire started. Experts found orange crayon on the top of the lighter, Worthington said.

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