Lawsuit filed in dealership flash fire

Ed Howell, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 7/12/17

Andrea Downing, the mother of two children of one of the three workers who died in the aftermath of a June 12 flash fire at Carl Cannon Chevrolet Buick GMC, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against …

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Lawsuit filed in dealership flash fire


Andrea Downing, the mother of two children of one of the three workers who died in the aftermath of a June 12 flash fire at Carl Cannon Chevrolet Buick GMC, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Jasper car dealership and other suppliers.

Downing filed a nine-page lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon in Walker County Circuit Court, with copies of the suit posted in media reports on the internet later that day.

She is seeking workman’s compensation benefits for Addie and Colton Jennings, two of the children of Jake Jennings. Downing said she is the biological mother and guardian of the two children.

Jennings was one of four workers who were severely burned in Carl Cannon’s oil change pit of the service department. Jennings, 39, of Locust Fork, died at 1:45 p.m. on June 13 at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, officials said.

Zack Davis, Jonah Johnson, and Javan Robertson were also critically injured and taken by ambulance to UAB Hospital. Robinson, 20, died at 12:06 p.m. on June 22 at UAB Hospital. Davis, 20, of Carbon Hill, died on July 2 at UAB. Jonah Johnson, 20, of Carbon Hill, was also critically injured.

A fifth worker — 21-year-old Shelton Allen of Oakman — was taken by ambulance to Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper after having difficulty breathing. His injuries at the time were described as being minor.

Alabama State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen said after the incident the incident is better characterized as a ‘flash fire,’ not an explosion.

Wikipedia describes a flash fire as “a sudden, intense fire caused by ignition of a mixture of air and a dispersed flammable substance such as a solid (including dust), flammable or combustible liquid (such as an aerosol or fine mist), or a flammable gas. It is characterized by high temperature, short duration and a rapidly moving flame front.”

According to the lawsuit, “Mr. Jennings was performing his duties for the Defendants and, in performance of said duties, was caused to suffer injuries and subsequent death when a flammable substance ignited nearby, causing a flash fire to erupt.” Jennings was “operating the unilube system and oil change center, as required by his employment, in a reasonable and prudent manner.” 

Downing filed under the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Alabama to recover amounts she said she was entitled to, including future lost wages and death benefits.” 

In addition, the lawsuit also alleges negligence and breach of warranty against Unilube Systems, Ltd., of Fort Worth, Texas, Hessaire Products, Inc., of Holly Pond, Flynn Distribution Co., Inc., of Birmingham and Wurth USA, Inc., of Ramsey, N.J. Products and equipment from those companies were used at the facility at the time of the accident, and the suit alleges that those items contributed to Jennings’ fatal injuries.

“Said products and their attendant equipment were not reasonably safe when being used in a foreseeable manner, but, to the contrary, were defective and unreasonably dangerous to the human body when being so used,” the suit stated. The complaint goes on to say all the defendants in the suit “knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that said products and their attendant equipment were unreasonably dangerous to the human body when being so used in a foreseeable manner.”

Causing the injuries would make the defendants liable under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine, the suit states.

Downing is represented by Birmingham attorney G. Whit Drake of Birmingham.

According to Jennings’ obit on, “Jake was a 1996 graduate of Erwin High School and enjoyed coaching and umpiring baseball for 23 years. He worked in the automotive service industry around Birmingham for many years most recently with Carl Cannon Chevrolet of Jasper. He was a member of Grace Community Church.”

The obit said Jennings was survived by his wife of 11 years, Charity Smith; parents, Terry and Judy Jennings; sons, Colton Jennings and Jackson Jennings; daughters, Addie Jennings and Mackenzie Smith; brother, Josh Jennings (Stefanie); grandparents, James and Hazel Stripling; nephews, Judsen Jennings, Cooper Jennings and Christopher Ross Smith; niece, Sawyer Jayde Smith; and a host of cousins.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, John and Hortense Jennings.