Faulty fish tank timer blamed in first '06 suit

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 4, 2006, 7:56pm

Being first isn't always best.

Salton Inc., a manufacturer of small appliances from Lake Forest, Ill., is the first defendant to be sued in Madison County's Civil Law Division in 2006.

Northland Insurance Company and State Farm Insurance--a company that is frequently sued in Madison County--are alleging that Salton's Ingram Time Products fish tank timer is responsible for an electrical fire that caused more than $100,000 in damage to one of their client's home.

According to the complaint filed on Jan. 3, Northland provided insurance under a religious organization policy to Martin and Ruth Schultz and State Farm provided them with renter's insurance.

The Schultzes resided at 1327 Vaughn Road in Wood River. They used the allegedly defective timer for an aquarium in their home.

"On Jan. 12, 2004, the timer malfunctioned as a result of a defective condition, causing a fire inside Martin and Ruth Schultz's residence and resulting in damages in the approximate amount of $61,761.18 to the Schultz residence and $42,082.49 to the Schultz's personal property," the complaint states.

According to the insurance companies, Northland issued payment to the Schultzes in the amount of $61,761.18 and State Farm paid them $25,000. The insurers claim they are entitled to recover those amounts.

They claim that the timer was in a defective condition, was unreasonably dangerous and failed to have any devices to prevent defects such as the type that caused the fire.

Both also claim that Salton did not give an adequate warning of the dangers the timer presented.

The complaint does not specifically state how the timer was allegedly defective.

Northland and State Farm are represented by Robert Cockerham of Brown & James in Belleville.

In addition to the amount they paid the Schultzes, the insurance companies are seeking attorney's fees, pre- and post- judgment interest and any other relief the court may deem just and proper under the circumstances.

Salton is a leading domestic designer, marketer and distributor of a broad range of small appliances under such brand names as George Foreman, Toastmaster, Breadman, Juiceman, Juicelady, Westinghouse, Farberware, Melitta, Russell Hobbs, Tower and Haden.

They also design and market tabletop products, time products, lighting products and personal care and wellness products under such brand names as Calvin Klein, Timex, Ingraham, Timex, Westclox, Big Ben, Spartus, Stiffel, Ultrasonex.

At the end of trading on Wall Street on Jan. 4, Salton's stock (SFP) closed at $1.99.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Don Weber.

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