Motorized wheelchairs have been implicated in many fatal fires over the past decade. Invacare Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of battery powered wheelchairs, has been named in numerous wrongful death lawsuits because of such wheelchair fires. In April 2000, Invacare began quietly recalling nearly all of its wheelchairs because of a flaw that could cause the devices to catch fire. Other manufacturers, including Pride Mobility Products Corp., along with the makers of the wheelchairs’ components and accessories, have also been named in such lawsuits.
Our motorized wheelchair fire lawyers are investigating several of these tragic accidents right now. If you or a loved one were injured or worse as a result of a motorized wheelchair fire, we want to hear from you today. We will help you hold the manufacturer of your defective motorized wheelchair accountable for the suffering brought upon you and your family.
If you or a loved one were the victim of a motorized wheelchair fire, you may be entitled to compensation for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If your loved one died in one of these horrific fires, you are also eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the wheelchair manufacturer and any other entity who contributed to the loss of their life. We urge you to contact our motorized wheelchair fire lawyers today for a free evaluation of your case.
Motorized Wheelchair Fires Linked To Deaths
Fires caused by motorized wheelchairs are exceptionally destructive, and the people who have been injured or killed in one of these fires suffer horribly. In most cases, the disability that caused them to require a motorized wheelchair in the first place left them helpless to escape the flames, and their wheelchair became a deathtrap.
The number of fires and deaths caused by motorized wheelchairs is shocking. In some cases, the battery-charger wiring harness on a wheelchair would short circuit, leading to smoking, sparking and fire. In other instances, batteries and wheelchairs reportedly melted, and some wheelchairs caught fire while victims were sitting in them.
Here are just a few of the tragic fires caused by these defective wheelchairs:
- In 1999, Spencer Lynch of Oklahoma died from burns after the battery-charger wiring harness on his Invacare Power 9000 short-circuited and caught fire. Invacare eventually settled a lawsuit with Lynch’s parents for a reported $20 million. According to pre-trial documents, an Invacare engineer said "we didn’t think of it," when asked whether the company had considered adding a $5 fuse to stop the short-circuits at the time the wiring harnesses were designed.
- In 2002, Invacare settled a lawsuit for more than $7 million after defective wiring on one of its wheelchairs sparked and caught fire, badly burning a 65-year-old quadriplegic woman. As a result of the fire, victim Betty Davis suffered second- and third-degree burns over 25 percent of her body.
- In December 2004, the family of 65-year-old John Robles Sr. filed suit against wheelchair manufacturer Pride Mobility, and its distributor, Golden State Medical Supply, for negligence and wrongful death. The suit charged that the fire that killed Robles was sparked by an incorrect battery installed in his Pride Mobility Jet 10 electric wheelchair.
- In February 2009, the family of a Portland, Oregon woman filed an $8.5 million wrongful death lawsuit against Invacare, as well as several companies that sell motorized wheelchairs or make component parts and accessories, and companies that lease and maintain them. The suit alleges that the wheelchair malfunctioned, caught on fire and burned the woman — who was unable to move due to multiple sclerosis — while she was in a motorized hospital bed, also built by Invacare.
- In February 2010, a wrongful death lawsuit was brought on behalf of Merrimac Ellis, a Louisiana resident who burned to death after an Invacare wheelchair caught fire. Firefighters reported that they found Ellis trapped in her powered wheelchair, in front of her kitchen sink and that both she and the powered wheelchair were engulfed in flames.
- In July 2010, the home of a Corpus Christi, Texas family was severely damaged in a fire believed to have been started by a motorized wheelchair. The fire severely burned the living room and the rest of the home received substantial smoke damage. Fortunately, the four people in the home at the time made it out safely.
Invacare Motorized Wheelchair Recall
In April 2000, Invacare issued a recall for six models of its motorized wheelchairs because of fires and deaths linked to the devices. That recall was expanded to include a total of 16 models in September 2000. The recall included all powered wheelchairs Invacare made from 1985 to 2000 – more than 215,000 of them.
The recall involved replacing components in the flawed charging systems. The motorized wheelchairs lacked a fuse that would cost less than $5 and handle short-circuits, according to an Invacare engineer who was questioned in the Lynch lawsuit.
According to a 2002 investigation by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Invacare waited years after reports surfaced that some of its wheelchairs were igniting, causing deaths and injuries, before issuing the recall. According to the report, Invacare had tracked complaints about problems associated with the battery-charger wiring harness short circuiting and causing fires as far back as August 1993. Those complaints described more than 30 incidents before the recall began in April 2000, the Plain-Dealer said. The company noted five deaths and other injuries and damages.
Even when it finally issued its recall, Invacare did so "quietly" according to the Plain-Dealer. Although Invacare sent cards to possible customers and notified many dealers of the recall, it has acknowledged that it did not refer to the recall in press releases, filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, annual reports or on its Web site, according to the Plain-Dealer. As a result, many people never learned of the recall, and reports of fires, injuries and deaths associated with Invacare motorized wheelchairs continued to be made.<
Legal Help for Victims Affected By Motorized Wheelchair Fires
If you or a loved one were injured or killed in a fire caused by a defective motorized wheelchair, you have valuable legal rights. Please fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to discuss your case with one of our motorized wheelchair fire lawyers today.