Kelly Holleran Jun. 12, 2013, 11:34am

An insurance company has filed suit against the manufacturer of fry vats used in McDonald’s restaurants around the county, saying it had to pay an O’Fallon McDonald’s more than $200,000 after its fry vat caught on fire.

American Family Mutual Insurance Company claims it paid $261,443.83 to a McDonald’s restaurant at 1610 West Highway 50 in O’Fallon after one of its fryers caught on fire on April 15, 2010.

The insurance company filed a similar suit in Madison County last month over a deep fryer fire at an Alton McDonald's.

The fryers, which had been manufactured by defendants Frymaster, The Manitowoc Company and Manitowoc Food Services Company, had a track record of causing fires, according to the complaint filed May 23 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. This is because the natural-gas-heated deep fat fryers, which were manufactured between 1992 and 2001, allow fat used in the frying process to accumulate in the fryer’s cabinet. In turn, the fat builds up on hot surfaces and electrical components, causing an increased risk for fire, the suit states.

“The design of the high-efficiency fryer cabinet is such that these accumulations of fat cannot be seen during the ordinary use and maintenance, and cannot be removed by routine cleaning,” the complaint says.

In 2007, all of McDonald’s franchises switched from using trans-fat-free vegetable oil to utilizing trans-fat containing shortenings and oils in its fryers. This change of cooking mediums significantly increased the chance of fire, American Family Mutual Insurance Company claims.

Despite their knowledge of the increased risk of fires, the defendants hid the dangers from McDonald’s restaurants, according to the complaint.

In its complaint, American Family Mutual Insurance Company alleges strict liability for defective products against Frymaster. It also says the defendants are guilty of negligence and negligent misrepresentation.

In its complaint, American Family Mutual Insurance Company is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

It will be represented by Crystal Spivey Wildeman of Kahn, Dees, Donovan and Kahn.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-266.

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