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Film documents business closure because of lawsuits

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- A new short film examines the final week of business for a small business before frivolous lawsuits forced it to close down.

The film, called "The Last Week: How Lawsuits Doomed an American Icon," follows the closure of Blitz USA, a 50-year-old company that was based in Miami, Okla.

The film can be viewed at FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. The site is operated by the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform, which owns Legal Newsline.

"Blitz USA's closure is emblematic of the real life consequences of lawsuit abuse because it was the largest company in its field, an anchor in its community, and provided 117 American manufacturing jobs," ILR President Lisa A. Rickard said in a press release. "Sadly, when plaintiffs' lawyers sense vulnerability, it can set off a feeding frenzy of lawsuits and settlements that can cripple an employer and cost people their livelihoods in the process."

The ILR says the film is the centerpiece of a national media campaign starting this month and running into 2013.

Blitz USA produced three out of every four portable gas cans nationwide and employed 350 people in Miami, Okla. But a wave of lawsuits over the past 10 years took its toll, and it finally drove the company out of business.

"As the cases mounted and Blitz was forced to empty more than $30 million from its coffers in defense and damage fees, the company had to declare bankruptcy, forcing its 117 employees out of work and sending more than 400 people into the community without health insurance," the ILR release said.

ILR started its Faces of Lawsuit Abuse campaign to make the public more aware of the personal consequences that litigation brings to communities.

Since that site launched, Faces of Lawsuit Abuse videos have been viewed more than 10 million times, and garnered over 500 million paid advertising impressions since the campaign began, according to the ILR. Some videos will be reformatted to run as 30-second TV ads, and some have been featured as movie theater trailers to run before feature films on nearly 300 screens.

Plaintiffs' attorneys began targeting Blitz USA after some injuries that resulted from the misuse of the gas can. Soon, there were 40 lawsuits saying the Blitz USA cans would combust near an open flame.

"The lawyers that are suing us have a theory that the gas vapor, when somebody pours it on a fire, goes up inside the can and the can explodes," Blitz USA CEO Rocky Flick said.

While Blitz USA's experts were never able to replicate the "exploding gas can," it was clear that misusing a gasoline can by pouring fuel on an open flame could cause serious injuries.

"There's no way to protect somebody pouring gas on a fire," Flick said. "It was a case where we couldn't fight them all."

Blitz USA closed its doors in August.

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