MIAMI, OK — Frivolous litigation ignited a series of lawsuits that is causing an Ottawa County gas can maker to close, said Rocky Flick, CEO of Blitz U.S.A.
Blitz U.S.A./F3 Brands in Miami filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Nov. 9. On Monday, the company announced it would close July 31 and lay off 117 workers.
“This is quite a blow,” said Chuck Evans, plant manager. “We hope another plant comes in and takes over.”
In 1992, U.S. Metal Container became Blitz U.S.A., partly due to a switch to plastic containers. For years, U.S. Metal Container sold gas cans to government agencies for military use. In 1966, it was the only gas can manufacturer in the U.S., and a year later the gas can was painted bright red and sold to thousands of customers nationwide, the company's website says.
Company officials said product liability lawsuits prompted the company to file bankruptcy. The lawsuits mostly involved people pouring gasoline out of a gas can onto an open fire, and the vapors igniting and causing injuries.
“We got 100 percent of the lawsuits even though we don't have 100 percent of the gas cans out there,” Evans said.
Flick said the company was unable to put together a reorganization plan.
The 50-year-old company will have its assets sold Sept. 6, he said.
Flick said once the first lawsuit was settled, the floodgates of litigation were opened.