a burning particle of lint world be blocked by the tumbling dryer drum containing half a load of rags, the lint screen, and the drum seal. Even if such a particle could be ignited by the heater coil and somehow pass through still ignited, the fire did not occur until more than two hours after the heater coil was turned off. Also, lint does not have an ember quality. If ignited it burns quickly to ash.
40. A rearward opening cowl (instead of a "flapper") to cover a dryer exhaust vent is appropriate in a marine application, because the presence of salt water could cause a "flapper" to become stuck shut from corrosion or contamination from water and debris. The routing of the exhaust vent tubing (which loops several inches above the vent opening in the hull before traveling downward to the dryer exhaust terminus) is an appropriate and effective design used in conjunction with the vent cowl in keeping water and debris out of the dryer.
41. Frigidaire has sold 44,632 identical LC 240 H washer/dryer units, and there has never been a fire resulting from a defect in that product line. Hatteras has designed and built in excess of 2,000 yachts incorporating stacked unit washer/dryer units installed and vented in the same or very similar fashion as the washer/dryer unit on the Ultorian, and Hatteras has never received notice of any claim that a defect in the installation or venting of any of those units caused a fire.
42. From the time of the purchase of the Ultorian to the date of the fire, neither Sisson nor his wife, Betty, experienced any operational problems with the washer/dryer.
43. The sole proximate cause of the fire was due to spontaneous combustion and ignition of oil contaminated rags placed in the dryer unit of the vessel by the Sissons and was not due to any product defect or failure to warn on the part of defendants.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The claim of American Home against the defendants is premised on the law of products liability. Maritime law has adopted the concepts of strict liability based both on tort and on Section 402A of the Restatement of Torts (2nd) Strict Liability. East River Steamship Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval , Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 90 L. Ed. 2d 865 , 106 S. Ct. 2295 (1986); Pan-Alaska Fisheries, Inc. v. Marine Constr. & Design Co., 565 F.2d 1129 (9th Cir. 1977).
2. One who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous at the time it is sold to the consumer or his property is subject to liability for physical harm. A product may be defective if the seller fails to give reasonable warnings of danger or a defect in the product known at the time of manufacture or discovered afterwards when the seller by exercising reasonable diligence, could have made such warnings or instructions available to the user or consumer. Nicor Supply Ships Assocs. v. General Motors Corp., 876 F.2d 501 (5th Cir. 1989).
3. The existence of a defect may be proved through inferential proof when an expert testifies that some type of defect was the cause of the loss and no other cause was likely. Fernandez v. Chios Shipping Co., Ltd., 542 F.2d 145, 154 (2d Cir. 1976); Lindsay v. McDonald Douglas Aircraft Corp., 460 F.2d 631 (8th Cir. 1972) (proof of specific defect not required); North American Aviation v. Hughes, 247 F.2d 517 (9th Cir. 1957).
4. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that the acts of placing contaminated rags containing Watco Teak Oil into the dryer, raising the temperature by drying the rags, and leaving them within the dryer compartment allowed spontaneous combustion to occur, which was the sole proximate cause of the fire.
5. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that both the Frigidaire washer/dryer and the Hatteras yacht were properly designed and constructed.
6. Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover any claimed damages from defendants Hatteras Yachts, Inc. or White Consolidated Industries.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court enter a judgment on the merits in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs dismissing this case with prejudice and with costs allowed to the defendants.
William T. Hart
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: OCTOBER 29, 1991