103 – The Can that Can’t

Welcome to Forensic Business Pathology® (FBP) with Tom Taormina. This is Case Study #103 in an ongoing series of anecdotal lessons, based on actual cases, to help litigators achieve their greatest level of success in products liability and organizational negligence tort.

The Incident

A computer repairman was making service calls in Arizona in the middle of the summer. He was carrying his tool kit in the front seat of the vehicle. That kit included an aerosol can that was used for cleaning computer keyboards and removing other debris. His claim is that the can spontaneously exploded from the heat. He testified that the can hit him in the eye, causing his eyeball to dislocate and lose his vision.

The Forensic Investigation

The forensic investigators found marks on the can that suggested it had been struck by a sharp object or perhaps wedged in a door or trunk lid.

The FBP Investigation

An FBP audit of the factory where the product was made revealed unimpeachable evidence that the plaintiff was completely falsifying his testimony. First, for many years, aerosol cans that are under pressure have a unique safety feature. The bottom of the can is concave. If the contents begin to expand due to heat or pressure, the can bottom begins to expand. When the bottom reaches a certain point, the seal around the edge is designed to separate and expel the gas at a controlled rate, rather than explode.

Think Outside the Globe

The people who ran the factory were truly students of defect avoidance. The production line included one of the cleverest mechanisms to ensure zero outgoing defects I have ever witnessed. Instead of using a conveyer belt to move the cans from production to packaging, they invented a water flume. The cans were placed in a 200o F water bath for the journey to the packaging area. If there was a defect in any one can, it would fail during the water bath run.

How many manufacturers can claim that they have destructively tested every single product that they ship out the door? Thinking outside the globe when you run a manufacturing operation can create a product that has virtually zero warranty cost and is virtually immune from product liability.

Are there simple elegant methods that you can adopt to eliminate foreseeable risk in your operation? Ask the people who do the actual work. There may be a gold mine of great ideas waiting to be tapped.

For more about Forensic Business Pathology® and Think Outside the Globe© visit me at www.tomtaormina.com .