Lawsuit blames toy car for fire that burned house Defective part called culprit in 1994 blaze

January 28, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff

An Annapolis couple and their insurance company have sued the maker and a parts supplier of a toy electrical car for $6 million, alleging that a malfunctioning part caused a fire that destroyed their house in 1994.

Dwaine and Theresa Kinsinger charged that the fire at their home, in the 800 block of Coach Way in the Downs community near Annapolis, was caused by defective parts supplied for the "Tuff Wheels" powered car they had purchased in December 1990.

American & Foreign Insurance Co. of Charlotte, N.C., which handled the Kinsingers' homeowners policy, joined in the suit against Matchbox Toys Limited of Mount Laurel, N.J., and Service Concepts International Inc. of Santa Ana., Calif.

Dennis Wesolowski, an attorney for Tyco Toys Inc., which purchased Matchbox Toys in 1992, said he has not seen the suit and could not comment.

He said the Tuff Wheels model has not been marketed by the company for at least three years and that he did not know how many Tuff Wheels cars may have been sold through the years.

A spokesman for Service Concepts said the company could not respond to questions about the suit because no one had seen it.

Mrs. Kinsinger said Friday that the suit is an attempt by the insurance company to recoup the costs of rebuilding her house.

The suit alleges that the toy failed to operate twice after the Kinsingers purchased it and that the "replacement wiring harnesses and other electrical components" supplied by Matchbox or Service Concepts were faulty.

The parts were "shipped without appropriate safety devices, installation instructions, wiring diagrams, schematics or warnings of potential hazards associated with electrical failures or malfunctions," according to the suit, which claims that an electrical malfunction within the toy "caused the flammable plastic components of the car to ignite."

Mrs. Kinsinger said no one was hurt in the fire, which broke out in the garage and quickly spread to the house. The heat was so intense that firefighters had to douse a nearby house with water to keep it from catching fire, she said.

The house has been rebuilt, but the family of four rented a house about a block from their home for a year while construction

progressed.

"Everything was just a total loss," Mrs. Kinsinger said. But the biggest loss was in the family memories that went up in flames, she said.

"It's the loss of the pictures, the baby pictures, that meant so much. You can't replace them."

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