When a machinery malfunction causes injury, it may be possible to seek restitution. Fatal machinery malfunctions can be cause for a wrongful death lawsuit. Usually malicious intent or failure to exercise caution is necessary to prove legal liability for a death caused by a malfunction.
On Oct. 20, a man was killed on Metropolitan Avenue when his motorized wheelchair caught fire. Bystanders say that the man was calling for help, and he was trying to get out of his wheelchair. A witness believes that it is unlikely that the man set the fire himself, which was one theory that investigators were evaluating in the aftermath of the incident. Additionally, a Fire official stated that it is not believed that the man was doused with fuel, due to a lack of a distinct smell.
Investigators are trying to determine if a malfunction within the electric components of the wheelchair ignited the blaze. Firefighters responded quickly to the call and extinguish the fire, but they were unable to save the man, who perished at the scene. Due to the severity of the burns, the man has not yet been identified.
If an investigation shows that a wheelchair malfunction caused the fire that led to the man's death, the family may be able to pursue wrongful death damages. Depending on the manufacturing origin and maintenance history of the wheelchair, legal liability may rest with more than one party.
Source: CBSAtlanta.com, "Wheelchair-bound man burns to death," John Pillow and Sonia Moghe, Oct. 20, 2012