Andrea Dearden Jun. 6, 2013, 12:05pm

The owners of an Alton McDonald's are suing the makers of a deep fryer they say caused a fire in the restaurant.

American Family Mutual Insurance Company, as subrogee of Bold Enterprises Inc., filed a lawsuit May 23 in Madison County Circuit Court against Frymaster LLC, the Manitowoc Company and Manitowoc Food Service Companies LLC.

According to the complaint, Frymaster, a subsidiary of the Manitowoc Company, made a series of high-efficiency fryers for McDonald's restaurants from 1992 to 2001. The fryer was made to be used with shortening that solidifies at room temperature, like those containing trans-fat oils. The fryer also utilizes a filtration system which pumps oil from the frypot through a filter and then back into the frypot, the complaint states.

The insurance company says the fryer also allowed shortening to collect inside the fryer cabinet near hot surfaces and electrical components, creating a risk of a fire. The lawsuit claims Frymaster received complaints of a leaky frypot in the high-efficiency fryer soon after its introduction.

In 2007, according to the lawsuit, McDonald's Corporation required all franchises to switch from a trans-fat oil to a non-trans-fat vegetable oil for frying. That also allegedly further increased the risk of fire because the oil does not solidify at room temperature. Despite the reports of a leaky frypot and the known risk of fire danger increased with the switch to vegetable oil, Frymaster allegedly continued to produce the high-efficiency fryer without warnings to its customers.

American Family Mutual Insurance claims in May 2011 a fire started at the Homer Adams Parkway McDonald's due to an accumulation of fat inside a Frymaste high-efficiency fryer cabinet, causing more than $250,000 in damage to the restaurant. The insurance company alleges the defendants were negligent and, therefore, liable for the damages.

Attorney Crystal Spivey Wildeman, of Evansville, Ind., represents American Family Mutual Insurance. They request a jury trial.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No.13-L-851

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