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Banana Boat Not Fun in the Sun When Sunscreen Catches Fire

Stow resident Brett Sigworth, accidentally immolated himself after applying Banana Boat spray on sunscreen before tending his grill, reports WBZ-TV/

Sigworth was not making a political statement in burning himself. Instead he sprayed himself with sunscreen, rubbed it in for a few seconds and then walked to the grill when flames made the sunscreen catch on fire, engulfing Sigworth’s upper body.

WBZ also reported that Sigworth’s doctors said that if he had been on fire for any longer he would have sustained 3rd or 4th degree burns instead of the 2nd degree burns he has now. Sigworth thanked his friends for their quick response to his dilemma.

Now, he has retained a lawyer.

Sigworth claims that he has retained a lawyer not to obtain a money judgment, but instead to clarify the warnings on similar products. According to the WBZ report, Sigworth feels that the warning "flammable, don't use near heat, flame or while burning" is not enough because it does not warn people that it continues to be flammable after application.

So does Mr. Sigworth have a viable products liability claim?

A manufacturer has a duty to warn about hidden dangers of products and must instruct users how to safely use the product. If they don't and someone was injured by the product while using it for the intended use then the manufacturer is liable for any harm.

It certainly seems like Sigworth was using sunscreen for its intended use of protecting skin from UV rays. But there is an argument that you usually don't tan while hanging out near an open flame. Actually, there may actually be instructions on other products to operate a grill while wearing gloves, which could have helped retard at least some of the flames.

Both the sunscreen and the grill have warnings about one another. The sunscreen says watch out for fire; the grill says watch out for stuff that catches fire. However, there is still a chance that Sigworth could be successful. His one leg to stand on is that the warning is not crystal clear that the Banana Boat is still flammable after application on skin.

While Brett Sigworth may have a chance in court, it is a small one. The warning clearly states that the sunscreen is flammable. If the sunscreen catches fire in one situation, is there reason to believe that it's going to catch on fire in another? Probably not.

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