Automatic coffee makers, like the one implicated in a Salt Lake house fire that killed two children in 1989, have been recalled by General Electric Co.
The voluntary recall, announced in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, was part of the settlement of a federal court lawsuit filed by John F. and Carole Ann Clark. The lawsuit was filed against General Electric and companies that designed the coffee maker components.U.S. District Judge David Winder signed an order settling the case against GE last week. The terms of the agreement are confidential, but sources say the settlement is among the largest personal injury awards ever made in Utah.
The Clarks' home at 943 E. South Temple was destroyed on April 21, 1989, by a fire that killed their 4-year-old son, Peter Elliott Clark, and a 15-year-old family friend, Heather Sheehan. The Clarks' daughter, Lauren, 6, was critically injured in the blaze.
The Clarks' suit alleged that the fire was started by a GE "Brew Starter" coffee maker. About 9 million drip coffee makers bearing the GE or Universal brand were manufactured between 1976 and 1984.
According to GE, the company has received about 400 reports of coffee makers overheating. And in addition to the Clark case, the company has received claims that fuse failures in the coffee maker may have been responsible for fires that killed one other person and caused 15 injuries.
In a deposition taken in the case, a former GE engineer, Bruce Kyles, testified that the coffemakers were unsafe. "From an engineering standpoint, it was irresponsible for General Electric not to take these coffee makers off the market at that time," Kyles testified.
Included in the recall are GE brand and Universal brand drip coffee makers manufactured before April 28, 1984. According to the company, consumers can determine the date of manufacture by checking the code number stamped on the outside metal blade of the electric plug.
If the code number is 418 through 600, the coffee maker is not involved in the recall. Also not included in the recall are Space Maker drip coffee makers or GE and Universal percolators.
General Electric is offering $10 for each coffee maker returned in its recall of models manufactured before 1984. "The recalled coffee makers are not repairable, and owners should unplug the unit and stop using it immediately," said the recall announcement.
Coffee maker owners can get more information by calling GE at 1-800-443-9000.