Society

Family Sues Whirlpool After Fireball From Freezer Kills Man

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A North Carolina family is suing Whirlpool Corp. claiming a defective refrigerator overheated and killed Ashley Alvin Walker with a fireball.

The claim, filed by Jane Walker Payne in Randolph County Superior Court, says Walker’s fridge overheated more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit because it had a defective heating element pin in its icemaker, Courthouse News Service reported.

Walker bought the fridge in March 2002. The family claims the appliance had warranty repairs, but nevertheless a short occurred in the heating element in January 2012.

It began to smoke, setting off the fire alarm in Walker’s house.

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He saw the smoke and opened the freezer door causing a backdraft – so much oxygen was re-introduced to the fire when the door open that it sent a fireball at Walker.

The fireball burned Walker’s face and body and damaged his lungs, the family says.

"In what must have been extreme agony, decedent managed to pull himself from his kitchen to the front door," the complaint states. "Eventually, he was rushed to the hospital by emergency personnel, but unfortunately, it was too late. He died later that day from his injuries. His death certificate lists the cause of death as 'acute thermal injury.'"

Much of his home and belongings burned in the fire.

His family says Whirlpool cut corners and sacrificed quality. They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for negligence, failure to warn, breach of warranty and negligent repair.

The suit says major appliances cause 150,000 house fires each year.

A North Carolina man noticed flames coming out of his Frigidaire refrigerator in December while he was cooking breakfast for his daughters.

Jason Lightfritz told WSOTV he was able to get his children out of the home. While refrigerator manufacturers warn against letting dust build up behind the appliance because of a possible fire hazard, Lightfritz says the appliance was less than a year old.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, WSOTV