Hazel v. Blitz U.S.A., Inc.Annotate this Case
On November 5, 2010, James Nix poured kerosene from a gasoline can onto a burn pile in his yard. The kerosene ignited, and the flame entered the gas can through its unguarded pour spout. The gas can exploded and sprayed kerosene and fire onto Nix's five-year-old son Jacob, who was standing only a few yards away. Jacob suffered severe burn injuries to over 50% of his skin and was permanently scarred. Blitz U.S.A., Inc. manufactured the gas can. Blitz distributed the gas can involved in Jacob's injury through Fred's, a retail store chain headquartered in Tennessee. Fred's sold the gas can to a consumer at its store in the town of Varnville, in Hampton County, South Carolina. The explosion and fire that burned Jacob occurred at Nix's home in Hampton County, South Carolina. In 2013, Jacob's aunt Alice Hazel, his legal guardian, and Jacob's mother Melinda Cook, filed separate but almost identical lawsuits in state court in Hampton County seeking damages for Jacob's injuries. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Blitz on strict liability, breach of warranty, and negligence theories. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Fred's for strict liability and breach of warranty based on the sale of the allegedly defective gas can. Both plaintiffs also asserted a claim against Fred's on a negligence theory based only on Fred's negligence, not based on the negligence of Blitz. This is the claim important to this appeal, referred to as "Hazel's claim." Petitioner Fred's Stores of Tennessee, Inc. contended the circuit court erred by refusing to enjoin these lawsuits under the terms of a bankruptcy court order and injunction entered in the bankruptcy proceedings of Blitz U.S.A., Inc. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the circuit court correctly determined the bankruptcy court's order and injunction did not protect Fred's from these lawsuits. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for discovery and trial.