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Corboy & Demetrio Obtains $2.5M for 70-year-old Woman who Died in Fire Caused by Defective Handy Switch

Corboy & Demetrio has obtained a settlement of $2.5 million on behalf of the Estate of Ruth E. Schuda, a 70-year-old woman who died when an electrical fire ignited in the first floor living room of her two-story townhome.

On July 2, 2019, U.S. Federal District Judge Ronald A. Guzman dismissed a wrongful death/survival action brought on behalf of Annette Duffy, the Administrator of the Estate of Ruth E. Schuda who sustained thermal and fatal injuries in her Ottawa townhome on December 16, 2016.

Mrs. Schuda was in her second-floor bedroom when an electrical fire ignited from a wall mounted remote receiver commonly known as a Handy Switch, which was co-designed by Blackstone and IdeaVillage and marketed by IdeaVillage as its own product.

The fire ensued in the northwest corner of the living room and spread to a Christmas tree.

Mrs. Schuda was alerted to the fire and came down the stairs but sustained thermal burns and fatal injuries due to carbon monoxide intoxication from the fire.

The defendants blamed Raymond Schuda, the live-in son of plaintiff’s decedent, for removing the majority of the smoke detectors in the home and the owner of the townhome, PFB Center, for failing to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.

This strict product liability action was brought against IdeaVillage and Blackstone as two separate entities who were both involved in the design of the Handy Switch Remote Light Switch and the ultimate manufacturer, King Sound, located in Hong Kong.  King Sound was defunct, and the two designers/distributors remained in this case pursuant to the Illinois Distributors Act.

IdeaVillage issued a safety recall of the Handy Switch in 2009 in which it acknowledged that its receivers were prone to overheat and burst into flames. Destructive testing for the subject Handy Switch Remote Light Switch Receiver established that the receptacle’s capacitor overheated.

“This was a very tragic case for this family, as their mother was still working part-time as a salesclerk at Wal-Mart and left Christmas presents under the tree for her children and grandchildren,” said Corboy & Demetrio Partner Edward G. Willer.

Case info: #18CV00048, Annette Duffy, Independent Administrator of the Estate of Ruth E. Schuda, Deceased, Plaintiff, v. IdeaVillage Products Corporation, a foreign corporation; Blackstone International, Ltd., a foreign corporation; King Sound Enterprise Co., Ltd., a foreign corporation, Defendants. v. PFB Center, LLC and Raymond Schuda, Third-Party Defendants.

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