Should We Sue?

Yester Mr. Sven went out to an auto parts store in order to recycle his oil. Although they had a small container inside for that purpose, the employees directed him out to the back to a large oil drum. Mr. Sven began to open it, and it exploded on him. Apparently it was hot enough out that vapors built up and pressurized the can.

A piece of metal flew up and cut him in the chin down to the bone. It was a pretty nasty cut- filled with oil and shards of rusty metal. He needed nine stiches. Thank God it didn’t hit a little lower and slit his throat or a little higher and hit his eyes. The cut should heal alright.

Our first reaction was “these things happen”. But then again, leading customers to explosive oil barrels is pretty darn negligent. We are so lucky that he is okay, and I hate to think about what could have happened. A lot of people have been telling us we should look in to a lawsuit. It doesn’t really seem like a good idea to me, but I thought I would ask you guys.


IANAL, sounds like negligence on the employee’s part. If nothing else, they should foot the medical bills.

IA Definitely NAL, but I would say that if the medical bills were expensive, so much so that it would be worth suing them, I would.

On the other hand, if you would just be doing it because it was gross negligence (which it was)… I’d only do it if I had money and time to throw around.

But I’m sure a lawyer’ll come along and give you much better advice!

Oh, and I’m glad your husband’s okay. Even if you don’t sue, make sure that a complaint gets lodged as high up the ladder as you can, hopefully it won’t happen again to someone who might not be so lucky.

IANAL but sounds like you have a legitimate complaint. Nobody expects to have a pressurized anything explode in their face.
First off, best wishes and fast healing to Mr. Sven–and all gratitude he wasn’t hit across his eyes, etc.
Maybe the employee was genuinely ignorant about the risks but he/she was still acting as a agent for the company. Whether they did or didnt’ give training on the risks, the fact remains your husband was directed toward something that exploded, ripping into his face.

My suggestion? Retain personal legal counsel. That doesn’t translate into bloodsucking or exploitation. At the very least your medical expenses should be covered, and few store managers have the clout to authorize that.
At best you may help prevent injury to others without the wherewithal to cover even routine medical bills.

It’s truly a matter of responsibility, not exploitation. We’re an insanely litigious society but directing a customer into an explosive anything that rips their face open is a clear problem.

Hire a lawyer. Cynicism aside, most are responsible if not exactly high-minded. You’re up against entrenched, penny-pinching corporate drones. They don’t listen to much less than direct threats.


i dunno. we ARE an insanely litigious society. depends on how you feel about that. do you think the insanity has to stop somewhere? or are you thinking, maybe even just a little bit, that heres your chance to stick it to the man and grab a bite of his pie?

its a hard question. me, i feel both ways, of course. that defines me, according to nietzche, as a moral coward. cant say what id do. i had my chance once, and passed on it. and felt stupid later.

sometimes an accident is just an accident.

Mr Sven is O.K. That’s the important part.

What you do now would depend on what you want to achieve, IMO.

  1. Revenge = Sue for damages / trauma + medical bills

  2. Justice = Company has to pay your medical bills

  3. Hello Opal !:stuck_out_tongue:

  4. Something positive = Report incident to an organisation that can look into the incident, make changes at that particular workshop in procedures and education of staff, etc…

There are many options between those given, but I think too many people go ahead with things, without examining what they actually want to achieve, and end up sabotaging themselves, by their own actions.
It’s entirely up to the two of you, though. You have to be happy and sure with your decision.

This is not legal advice.

There are lawsuits and there are settlements. A cut down to the bone on your beautiful face does not sound minor. Get your bills together, calculate your lost work time and wages (if any), and think about what you might want to be in the condition you were in prior to that explosion. Are you going to need additional medical treatment, including possible plastic surgery? Could there be infections or nerve damage? Legal advice might be appropriate, but we don’t have all of your facts. Just because you consult with a lawyer does not mean that you are a blood sucker or a gold digger. But beware: An attorney might charge about a third of any settlement. Check with several if the first one doesn’t make you feel comfortable. (I assume you’re in the U.S.) Hope you’re OK. - FWIW

Well sometimes shit really does happen. I don’t know how common something like this is and whether or not they were aware of the risk. If this was just some freaky occurance then I don’t think you should sue them. If they were actually negligent then I think suing them might be reasonable. Either way someone representing the store should have offered to foot the medical bills.


Don’t know why, but this really strikes me. Why did they direct him outside? The container in the store is there, presumably, for the customers convenience and safety. Sounds like the employees lead him into danger due to their laziness.

IMHO, suing would be the right thing. The company would surely take steps to see that it doesn’t happen again.

Sure, but why should the victim have to pay for it?

Even Sven, you noted that it was lucky Mr. Sven didn’t get his throat cut. If you don’t sue, it’s just a matter of time before somebody else does get his throat cut.

law-school graduate

No opinion on whether you should sue, but if you have private health insurance, be sure that you work with their subrogation department so that any claims you file will be processed promptly. I used to work insurance and that was one of the most traumatic things I had to deal with. people were in, in some cases, horrifying accidents with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills which we denied because they didn’t meet their obligations in informing us so that we could pay their claims and then pursue the other party’s insurance for reimbursement.

Did you hear from them yet? They should have called you & asked you how you are…

Be sure to take pictures & get a copy of the doctors charts just in case.

They should pay your medical stuff. You don’t have to sue them at all. Just call their insurance company, they should know what to do for ya. You might not get as much this way or you might get more but you’ll get it right away.

You might think about contacting OSHA and the EPA. Clearly the shop’s manner of storing oil creates a workplace hazard, and I can’t imagine the EPA wants oil exploding all around the place.

I reiterate, get a lawyer. Someone experienced in these matters can help you decide whether you should sue or simply make a deal with their insurer. He’ll also be able to help you navigate your own insurance policies so you don’t lose your coverage, as Otto warned might happen.


IANAL but if this happened to me and my SO I would expect to at least have the medical bills and lost time from work paid for by the company.

I know what a litigious society we live in and, although some lawsuits are very valid, people are getting a little “sue” happy IMO. All these cancer ridden smokers/ex-smokers who are suing the tobacco companies for millions/billions of dollars and blaming them for their getting cancer just make me sick… that’s another story though. This company was obviously negligent and they should make it right with you. Just like an individual has homeowners or renters insurance to cover them in case someone gets hurt on their property, this company should carry insurance to protect themselves against the very same thing. Check into it. Write the company and also contact their corporate headquarters, write to OSHA… get a lawyer if you feel you need one. Good luck and I wish Mr. Sven a speedy recovery!

I would sue to ensure that it did not happen again to another person. Perhaps a negligence suit would persuade them to change their company procudures on such matters.


No, get a lawyer, period. Because you can’t determine if you need one or not by yourself.


Glad to hear Mr.Sven is OK.

I think Cliffy is right. Get a Lawyer.

You may find that the company’s insurer will offer a fair and quick settlement. If, and that’s a big if, they are fair and reasonable, then there is no reason to sue. On the flip side, you may have to sue in order to recover your costs. If they force you to sue, then you should be made as painful as possible for them.

As for the cause of the accident, that must be corrected ASAP. You may find that the company will self-police, and fix it immediately. You can always contact your local OSHA office to spur them along.

My bets? 1) You will end up needing the lawyer. 2)In a short time, you will find that the store no longer has a free oil recycle program.

I Hope I’m wrong about both.


Glad the hub is okay. Scary!

IMO, thinking about suing should never be your first priority. If you work with the company and they take responsibility and take care of you, why would you have to sue them? Believe me, they do not want to get sued, so they should be willing to take reasonable steps to make things right with you and to see that they don’t get sued.

There is no reason you can’t ask for what you feel you need without getting a lawyer and suing them. You can:

  1. Request that they pay your husband’s medical bills
  2. Request that they reimburse you for whatever other costs you have reasonably incurred (time away from work; cleaning the blood off the car seats, whatever)
  3. Request that they agree not to allow customers to use that oil drum, or fix it so it doens’t happen to someone else.

They should be willing to do all of this, and they should be apologizing repeatedly and profusely as they do so.

Talk to the manager and discuss your concerns, both regarding your husband and your worry that someone else might be even more seriously hurt if it happens again. Be ready to present them with all relevant bills for all the costs you’ve incurred and memorialize in writing (in a diary/journal, or in a letter to them) every conversation you have with them about it.

Then, if you find they are not willing to work with you, you can get weigh the pros and cons of suing them and – if it comes to that – you’ll have all your ducks in a row and you’ll have proof that you tried to work it out without litigation. But if you get a lawyer and file suit, then the matter will get kicked upstairs to their lawyer and the wheels of a lawsuit will be turning . . . it might be a long time before you see a recovery, you’ll be out whatever you’ve paid your lawyer, and the recovery may not be much more than you would have received from the company anyway. In other words, why loose the dogs before you’ve even tried to work it out face to face – or rather, cut face to company? If they tell you to pound sand, or you think whatever they’re offering is unsatisfactory, you can always get a lawyer then.

By the way, I think it’s silly to say you should go get a lawyer regardless of whether you think you need one on the basis that, gee, how the heck would you know if you need one or not? You’re a smart person; you know what the fair and just thing to do would be, and you have every right to demand it. If they tell you to get lost, then you need a lawyer. But if they work with you to solve the situation to your satisfaction, why would you need one?