Newell Brands, Inc. faces lawsuit alleging severe burns from collapse of Rubbermaid Commercial Brute container

ATLANTA, July 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Newell Brands, Inc. (previously Newell Rubbermaid, Inc.) faces a lawsuit by a former inmate who claims that the company’s negligence caused him severe burns, necessitating surgical skin grafts.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the State Court of Fulton County on behalf of the 26-year-old plaintiff, alleges that while incarcerated at USP Atlanta, a lack of hot water in the kitchen led inmates to engage in a practice of filling containers with kettle-heated water to soak dishes.

The plaintiff alleges that while he was standing nearby, a Rubbermaid Commercial® Brute® container collapsed, releasing scalding hot water onto his feet.

According to the lawsuit, Newell Brands—which reported 2015 annual sales for its Commercial Products segment of $0.8 billion—marketed the Brute® for a broad range of uses by promoting it as “virtually indestructible,” “one of the most versatile containers on the market,” and “suitable for extreme temperatures.”

The lawsuit claims that the company’s goal was to convince its commercial and institutional buyers that the container is useful for more than “merely holding garbage.” 

Newell Brands spends a lot of money,” says Candice Blain, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents the plaintiff, “on gaining insight into the behavior and motivations of buyers; they positioned their product as an ideal institutional solution—containers that can be used for anything.”

The complaint alleges the company failed to offset its marketing by warning of the dangers of using the container for “storing/transporting hot liquids,” despite knowledge that it tends to fail under thermal stress.

“This is not the only instance of an inmate being injured in this way,Blain emphasized.

In a 2014 decision, an inmate at the Wayne Scott Unit in Texas sued the prison over burns he sustained when a nearby plastic trash container was filled with hot water and melted. 

In a 2002 decision, a Texas inmate sued over burns caused when nearby plastic trash cans filled with hot water by food service workers collapsed. 

And two separate cases decided in 2006—one against the Belmont Correctional Institution in Ohio and one against the Chenango County Correctional Facility in New York—centered on burns suffered by inmates when containers used for transporting hot water failed.

In the Ohio case, the court expressly determined that using large plastic containers for holding hot water was “a common practice at the institution.”

Blain LLC is an Atlanta-based law firm that specializes in civil litigation for traditionally underrepresented victims.

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Twitter: @blainfirm

Candice Blain
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