Wrongful death lawsuit filed against heater company after man dies following gas explosion

Michelle Keahey Mar. 20, 2012, 2:10am

NEW ORLEANS - A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the manufacturer of a liquid propane heater, which exploded and resulted in a Ponchatoula man receiving deadly burns.

Patricia Hamaker Ayala, individually and as representative and adminstratrix for the Estate of Louis R. Ayala III, filed suit against Gabriel Building Supply, Enerco Corp., Enerco Group Inc. and its subsidiary Mr. Heater Corp. and ABC and XYZ Insurance Co. on Jan. 31 in Tangipahoa Parish District Court. The defendants removed the case to federal court in New Orleans on March 2.

The fire occurred on Feb. 2, 2011 at Ayala's home in Ponchatoula.

Louis Ayala claims he was using a Mr. Heater MH12T to provide liquid propane gas heat in his large shop area, when the heater malfunctioned and sent liquid propane gas or fire exploding from the unit. The explosion occurred as Ayala was passing by the heater and his clothing caught on fire and as a result, he suffered third and fourth degree burns. Ayala was able to escape the burning building which was destroyed by the fire, but succumbed to his injuries in August 2011.

The plaintiff argues that the heater did not perform as intended, was an unreasonably dangerous defective product, was ultra-hazardous, and did not conform to applicable safety and engineering codes and requirements. The defendants are accused of negligence in the engineering, design, manufacture, assembly and inspection of the heater.

The heater was purchased from Gabriel Building Supply, located in Ponchatoula.

On behalf of her deceased husband, Ayala is asking the court for an award of wrongful death damages for mental or physical pain, disfigurement, suffering, anxiety, fear of coming death, loss of income, loss of shed, loss of consortium, and loss of life's joy.

Ayala is also asking for an award of damages for fear, stress, anxiety and psychological damages, inconvenience, loss of love, affection and consortium, fear of death, financial losses, medical expenses and burial expenses.

The plaintiff is represented by Fred E. Salley of Salley & Associates in Covington. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:12-cv-00577

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