The rules regarding spoliation of evidence are changing rapidly. Manufacturers that were accustomed to receiving notice of products liability claims months or years after the loss occurred are now being invited to examine the scene of the incident within days or weeks. Most manufacturers are responding to the invitations and participate to some extent in the scene investigation. But are they taking full advantage of the opportunity to investigate the loss?
Investigating a loss involves more than sending a specialist or engineer familiar with your product to the loss site, especially if the loss was caused by a fire or explosion. A proper fire or explosion investigation includes determining the source of ignition or detonation, the first fuel ignited, the circumstances that brought the ignition source in contact with the first fuel, why the fire was not suppressed or controlled by the fire suppression system, and what factors allowed the fire to spread beyond the area of origin.
Our Fire and Explosion Group is experienced in leading investigations, from the simple restaurant fire to the destruction of a major manufacturing facility. We provide immediate response to a catastrophic event by assembling a team of investigative experts who go on scene to preserve evidence, interview witnesses, and document information from appropriate authorities. Although a product might not have functioned as designed, a proper investigation may show that its failure to perform as designed was not the cause of the loss. For example, the fire might have started in a product, but investigation may reveal it was altered after it left the factory. Or, investigation may show that a fire suppression system designed to protect a particular area, although it did not function properly, was not the cause of the fire spread if the fire started outside of the protected area.
Robinson+Cole's Fire and Explosion Group has the national experience to help companies minimize liability claims. Fire and explosion investigations require experienced professionals. Our team of lawyers works with a nationwide network of top forensic professionals who can promptly respond to a loss site anywhere in the U.S. to investigate fully the root cause of the loss, to analyze the potential liability, and, when appropriate, to help adverse parties identify the persons or entities really responsible for the incident and damage. Our clients find that conducting a thorough early investigation ultimately avoids most litigation and saves significant expenses in the long run.
Additionally, we regularly communicate with the governmental agencies that investigate devastating losses, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and other agencies, in guiding our clients through the legal ramifications resulting from a governmental investigation.
Representation of HVAC contractor in defense of various matters involving building and fire code violations, including an alleged defective sprinkler system, which caused $3 million in property damage.
Represent the insurer of a SM racing yacht that was destroyed in a fire off the coast of Antigua.
Obtained a multimillion-dollar settlement for a real estate owner against a contractor who caused a fire resulting in over $50 million in damages.
Successfully represented a group of insurers in the ConEd steam explosion cases that caused tens of millions of dollars in property damages.