PITTSBURGH – A United States Postal Service employee alleges that she suffered third-degree chemical burns when a drain cleaner product being sent through the mail leaked through its thin packaging and made contact with her body.
Stephanie V. Rimel of Pittsburgh filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Oct. 26 versus Alabama Janitorial & Paper Supply, LLC (doing business as “Aljan Paper Supply”) of Warrior, Ala., Amazing Products, Inc. of Louisville, Ky., First and Foremost Trading, LLC of Clearwater, Fla. and Walmart, Inc., of Bentonville, Ark.
The suit explains that prior to Sept. 9, 2023, a resident of Victoria, Va. made an online purchase of a 32 oz. bottle of Liquid Fire, a drain cleaner product, from defendant Walmart for $27.95, which included free shipping.
It was shipped by defendant Aljan Paper Supply, the suit says, who placed a 32 oz. bottle of the Liquid Fire product into a white plastic bag and then brought it to the United States Postal Service.
According to a Material Safety Data Sheet warning for Liquid Fire, “Contact with liquid, mist or vapor can cause immediate irritation or corrosive burns to all human tissue. Severity of burn is generally determined by the duration of exposure.”
“On Sept. 9, 2023 at approximately 11:15 p.m., plaintiff was working at her job as a mail handler for the United States Postal Service at its Warrendale Distribution Center located at 51 Pennwood Place, Suite 100, Warrendale, PA 15086-7831, which is in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. On the date and time aforementioned, plaintiff was carefully and lawfully performing her job, which included separating parcels that needed special handling in order for the parcels to be photographed and have their bar code scanned and read,” the suit states.
“At or around the date and time aforementioned, plaintiff gathered up several parcels that needed special handling, one of which was the bottle of product hereinbefore referenced that was ordered from Walmart for intended delivery on or before Sept. 25, 2023, to the purchaser in Victoria, Va. The bottle of product that plaintiff gathered for special handling was packaged in a thin white plastic bag.”
The suit continues that the “plaintiff was not able to read the warning label attached to the bottle of Liquid Fire because the bottle and label were within an opaque white plastic shipping bag, and the white plastic shipping bag did not have any warning that the parcel that plaintiff was handling contained hazardous material.”
“As plaintiff was going about her job duties as aforesaid, she felt an excruciating burn under her arm on the left side of her body. Plaintiff subsequently discovered that the burning she experienced was caused by Liquid Fire, which leaked from its bottle, through its white plastic packaging, and spilled onto the left side and other parts of her body causing the severe injuries and damages that are hereinafter set forth. Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to Western Pennsylvania Hospital, where she came under the care of the doctors and nurses in the burn unit of the hospital. The full extent of plaintiff’s injuries is not fully known at this time. However, they included full thickness, third-degree burns on her left forearm and upper and lower abdomen, as well as burns to her left breast, left leg and left foot. On Sept. 13, 2023, plaintiff returned and was admitted to Western Pennsylvania Hospital for emergent treatment which included, among other things, skin harvesting surgery, followed by skin grafting surgery to the burns on plaintiff’s left forearm and cadaver skin grafting surgery to the burns on plaintiff’s left side,” the suit says.
“On Sept. 18, 2023, plaintiff returned to West Penn Hospital per instructions to have her dressings changed. In the course of having her dressings changed, plaintiff suffered syncope due to the pain. On Sept. 19, 2023, plaintiff was returned to the operating room of West Penn Hospital for a debriding procedure where it was determined that the burns were more extensive, longer, and deeper than what the doctors originally believed and that the cadaver grafts had failed. Due to these findings, on Sept. 19, 2023, plaintiff was returned to the operating room for new skin grafting surgery. The conduct of the defendants as set forth in the following counts was outrageous, malicious, wanton, willful, and oppressive or shows reckless indifference to the interests of others such that punitive damages, as well as any compensatory damages, are required in order to punish the defendants for their conduct and to deter the defendants and others from committing similar acts.”
For counts of negligence, strict liability, inherently dangerous substance, violation of HCS governmental regulations, violation of U.S. Postal Service governmental statutes and fraud, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of the jurisdiction of the Board of Arbitrators of this Court and in excess of $50,000, and punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish and deter defendants from similar conduct in the future.
The plaintiff is represented by Michael J. D’Amico and Anthony J. D’Amico of D’Amico Law Offices, in Pittsburgh.
The defendants have not yet obtained legal counsel