News & Insights

Fire – don’t get burnt

Tom Maple considers a seller’s or manufacturer’s liability for compensation for fire damage caused by defective goods.

News of combustible tumble dryers is not the sort of headline you expect to see on the front page of a national daily newspaper. However, the Daily Mirror on 11 February 2016 featured that very story.

The Daily Mirror has reported that millions of Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit machines are subject to a product warning. They go on to confirm that millions of households are at risk from potentially dangerous tumble dryers as it emerged that one machine bursts into flames almost every day. It adds that last June, the consumer watchdog Which? reported that thousands of fires have been caused by faulty household appliances, including tumble dryers.

The Law on Defective Goods

If he is a consumer, the purchaser of goods of whatever type (whether dishwasher, car or kitchen), whether new or second-hand, has a right to claim compensation from the seller if he or she can show that the goods were not of satisfactory quality (under the Consumer Rights Act). This can sometimes be a difficult hurdle to overcome but that is less likely to be the case if a machine has caught fire without good reason.

If someone other than the purchaser suffers damage (a spouse, partner or a tenant for example), they are likely to have a claim under the Consumer Protection Act against the manufacturer (or importer) if they can show the goods were defective. Again, whilst that can sometimes be a difficult to prove, that is less likely to be the case if the goods in question have caught fire without good reason, given that this would tend to suggest the item was defective.

Whilst the Daily Mirror article focuses on consumers, similar rules apply to purchases made by companies, whether sole traders, partnerships or limited companies. Accordingly, if a business has purchased machinery which subsequently catches fire, then it may be that the seller is liable for the damage caused if the seller warranted that the goods would be of satisfactory quality (the Consumer Protection Act only applies to goods purchased for private use so is not applicable to companies). Any seller of goods, should therefore make sure that it has adequate insurance cover in place to cover such eventualities.

Damages – Compensation

If the fire from the goods causes damage, then, provided you can show the goods were defective or not of satisfactory quality, you are entitled to be compensated for your losses including any personal injuries and property damage. The value of that damage will depend on a number of factors and is likely to require specialist legal and expert input.

If you have suffered a significant loss from fire caused by faulty goods, dishwashers or other appliances, please contact us to discuss this matter further. You may also want to notify your insurer.