One of the calls on this particular morning is from the family of a man who is still in the emergency ward. "I guess he is pretty badly injured since he is still at the hospital," says Lancaster, an affable and engaging man who probably knows more about product liability and pool filters than almost any other attorney in the country.
Another one of this morning's calls was from a woman who has bruises and loose teeth after the filter blew up and threw her against the garden wall. There was also was a call was from a man with a four-inch gash in head. These are the lucky people.
"I represented a man a few years ago who owned his own fiber optics company," says Lancaster. "The pool filter exploded, he was thrown backwards on to the pool deck and suffered a brain injury and had to quit working," says Lancaster. "I also did a wrongful death case for the family of a man who was killed. He was leaning over the pool filter to check the pressure gauge and he was killed when it blew up."
What on Earth is this Guy Talking About?
Lancaster is talking about the everyday garden-variety cartridge pool filter system or two-part "clam shell" pool filter system manufactured by Hayward or Pentair and others. "All of the manufacturers make one of these two part or clam shell style pool filters," says Lancaster. "There is a bottom piece and top piece. They look like bells. Then there is a bellyband that fits around it like a belt on a pair of pants," he adds. "Those are dangerous types."
As pool owners know, the filter system has to be cleaned about twice a month.
The cardboard filters have to removed, hosed down and put back in and then the
tank has to be pressurized again. That's where things get tricky.
"Manufacturers want consumers to think the filter is easy and safe to use," says Lancaster. "If you look at any ad for a swimming pool filter it has some babe in a 2 piece swimsuit and she is all wet and she is smiling and she is having the time of her life but it is really a bomb."
Although the cleaning the filter requires few tools and a seemingly small amount of know how it, however is very easy to get it wrong. Leave too much air in the tank or have the bellyband seal slightly wrong and disaster can strike. "Then comes the moment the industry calls sudden separation because explosion sounds too dangerous and the lid blows up in the air," says Lancaster.
Manufacturers made a few slight changes to the system a few years ago, but making changes that would make it safer would also make it more time consuming for pool owners.
The litigation process almost always ends with a confidential settlement according to Lancaster who has handled as many of these cases, if not more than any attorney in the US. "We litigate these things and they keep getting settled with confidentiality agreements," says Lancaster. "I think it is more profitable to hurt people than it is to fix these things."
A veteran trial lawyer and attorney with the highly regarded Veen Firm in San Francisco, Lancaster says he would be very happy if he never had another phone call about someone tragically injured in their own backyard because of a cartridge pool filter system accident. But that seems unlikely. A redesign might mean it would take longer to clean the filters, or require special tools or even special knowledge to clean the pool for the weekend.
READ MORE Defective Product LEGAL NEWS
In the meantime, be careful out there. That filter system might be loaded.
Kevin Lancaster focuses on prosecuting complex cases involving products liability, professional negligence, catastrophic personal injury, and wrongful death. Lancaster has litigated more than 30 different kinds of both simple and highly technical product liability cases, involving consumer products, industrial products, tools, and machines. His professional negligence experience is both broad and deep, with experience in legal malpractice, architectural negligence, engineering negligence, and medical malpractice cases.