Your friends are over and a few are helping you prepare dinner for your annual Sunday Roast. Suddenly, your friend yells out that the oven is on fire. Startled, you see a large flame glowing through the glass door and you rush to turn the oven off. After unsuccessfully putting out the fire by turning off the oven, you call the fire department. By the time the fire department shows up and extinguishes the flame, nearly one-third of your kitchen is damaged. So, who is responsible for the damage?
In typical lawyer speak, the answer is “it depends.” Just because the fire occurred in your kitchen does not mean that you are de facto responsible for any damage that it causes – au contraire! The question of who is liable for fire-related accidents in your kitchen is best answered by determining who is responsible for the fire itself. In the above scenario, the fire could have been started by a flame-up or other cooking incident in the oven. Alternatively, it could be the result of a defective oven. If the fire is a result of your doing, then you are likely to be liable. However, if the fire is a result of incorrectly installed heating coils that resulted in part of the oven catching fire, then the manufacturer of the oven may be liable for the fire-related damage caused to your kitchen.
Fire-related accidents in the kitchen can be caused by a litany of sources, such as a defective or a broken appliance, incorrectly installed or maintained wiring, and even your neighbor. If an appliance where incorrectly installed, those who installed the appliance may be liable. If an inspector signed off on a connection that did not conform to the designated code, the inspector may be liable. In some circumstances, multiple parties may be involved if the total damage caused by the fire resulted from two or more causes.
How to Prevent Kitchen Fires
While it’s not possible to completely avoid the risk of having a fire-related accident in the kitchen, it is possible to take precautionary steps to reduce the risk. Some actions to take to reduce the risk of a fire-related accident in the kitchen include:
Using a timer when cooking to ensure that you do not forget about what is cooking
Not wearing loose clothes when cooking to ensure that you don’t accidently place a loose sleeve onto a burning stovetop
Ensure that all appliances are turned off before leaving home or going to bed
Regularly clean the kitchen and your appliances to ensure that build-up (such as grease) doesn’t become a fire hazard
Fire-related accidents in the kitchen can be disastrous. If you have experienced a fire-related accident in your kitchen, there may be legal remedies available to you.