A $728,000 lawsuit against a merchant accused of selling a glass window ornament that caused a fire in a Columbia condominium has been dismissed.
The suit accused John Yingling of selling the beveled glass ornament to Edward Shore on March 7, 1988 at the Columbia Mall. The ornament reflected sunlight so strongly that it ignited curtains and started a fire June 5, 1988, that caused $664,000 in damage to two condominiums.
The lawsuit was dismissed June 19 because Mr. Yingling provided records showing he was not working as a vendor at the Mall on March 7. He had moved his business, "A Touch of Glass," from the Mall on March 6. Mall records confirmed Mr. Yingling's account.
The residents of the fire-damaged condominiums, The Woodford Condominium Association, State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. and Valley Forge Insurance Co. filed the lawsuit last June against Mr. Yingling and Roy Culler. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Yingling bought the glass ornament from Studio Design Central, owned by Mr. Culler.
Mr. Shore, who bought the ornament for his daughter's birthday, says he has no doubt that it was purchased from Mr. Yingling, despite the one-day date discrepancy.
Although Mr. Yingling's and the Mall's records agree, Mr. Shore said that a difference of one day was not sufficient reason to dismiss the case.
Mr. Shore said he became involved in the lawsuit not for monetary compensation but to make people aware through warning labels that the ornaments could ignite a fire in certain conditions.
"People who buy such ornaments should take care where they put them," Mr. Shore said.
The Yinglings are relieved that the lawsuit has been dismissed but say that a little research on the part of the plaintiffs could have saved them a lot of money and hassle.
"We're out of pocket $6,000," said Connie Yingling. "This has been a real financial hardship for us, in addition to the mental stress."
Mrs. Yingling said that Mr. Yingling had moved his business from the Mall on March 6, the day before Mr. Shore purchased the glass ornament.
The ornament hung in a window in the second-floor front bedroom of Mr. Shore's condominium on Ring Dove Lane.
The angle of the edge of the glass caused it to act like a magnifying glass, producing a temperature sufficient to ignite material, fire investigators determined.