|Updated: 7/25/2012 9:22 pm
||Published: 7/25/2012 6:12 pm
The nation's largest manufacturer of gasoline cans is closing July 31st. It will leave 117 employees without jobs.
Blitz USA in Miami, OK says a string of lawsuits is forcing it to shut-down.
The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 9, 2011. At that time, there were 42 lawsuits against the company. Blitz USA told FOX23, after they settled two law suits, one for $5-million and the other for $10-million, there were 26 more cases filed in a matter of months by the same law firms.
"It's been very frustrating to see that we're the target of multiple lawsuits from the same law firms over and over again," said Amanda Emerson, one of the managers at Blitz USA.
The company makes 15 million gas cans a year and up until last year Emerson told FOX23 they averaged three to seven lawsuits a year in the 46 years the companies been in business.
"The most heartbreaking part about the closure of Blitz is it did not have to happen. It's not a result of mismanagement or a lack of demand of the product," she said.
The closing will leave 400 people without any benefits. It’s tough for employees like Teresa Judd to handle.
"My heart is here,” she said. “It's kind of hard to go looking somewhere else."
Judd said the entire company has been like a family. She has four kids who are all grown. However, she’s more worried about employees caring for sick family members. One woman’s husband has terminal cancer and now she has to worry about finding another insurance to cover him as well.
“We don’t know what they’re going through because it’s impacted a lot of people hard,” Judd told FOX23.
She’s worked with Blitz USA for 9 years. The bond she has with her co-workers goes beyond the 9 to 5 shift. Nearly 60 of them all spent time Wednesday going to First Christian Church in Miami for a job fair. 20 companies showed up and did interviews on the spot.
"It's rough,” said Judd. “It's like a new beginning."
The company said this is one of the most frustrating parts because they don’t feel like the gasoline can industry has any protection.
Attorney's representing the people who are suing the company say having a flame arrestor put into the gas can could've helped prevent those explosions. However, Blitz USA says there is no way to prove that."
"The fact of the matter is there is no device that can make it safe to pour gasoline on a fire," said Emerson.
She says a majority of the lawsuits are from people who burned themselves pouring gasoline on a fire. In one case, the plaintiff tried to keep a fire burning in his trailer home by pouring gasoline on to the fire when it exploded and killed his 2-year-old daughter. There are warning signs posted on the gas can about the dangers of having gasoline around a fire.
"I’m passionate about making sure this doesn't happen to any other gas can manufacturer," Emerson said.
There is a bill, The Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act, Congress is looking to amend for companies like Blitz USA. The company hopes by the government monitoring gasoline can manufacturing it will help to eliminate these lawsuits in the future.