Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Heater blamed in fire; family sues for $1M

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The family whose Linden Woods home was destroyed in a spectacular fire last December is suing the maker of a heater identified as the cause of the $3-million blaze.

Stella Anne Marie Kennedy filed a statement of claim against Dimplex North America Ltd., the maker of the 4,800-watt electrical heater the Kennedy family had in their Shoreline Drive garage.

Kennedy is asking the court to award her more than $1 million in special damages and unspecified general and punitive damages.

In the court documents, Kennedy states "the heater experienced a failure which led to a fire... resulting in the total loss and damage of the premises and the contents."

The allegations have not been proven in court. Dimplex, based in Cambridge, Ont., has not filed a statement of defence.

Kennedy is the wife of Edward Kennedy, president and CEO of the North West Co. He was chairman of last year's United Way campaign.

The Kennedys could not be reached for comment.

The Dec. 16, 2011, fire was discovered by one of the family's three daughters when she walked into the attached garage at 7 a.m. to start her vehicle.

Four people and the family's dog were inside the home at the time. They escaped unharmed.

News reports said flames from the burning home shot six metres high and a thick plume of white smoke could be seen from across the city.

Firefighters found the house fully engulfed in flames when they arrived. Burning cedar shingles on the roof were difficult to extinguish and continued to burn an hour after firefighters arrived.

Officials said the fire was caused by a heater in the garage.

The blaze destroyed two vehicles in the Kennedy garage and damaged the front end of a vehicle parked in the driveway.

There was some fire damage to the west side of a neighbour's house, including broken windows.

The court documents state Kennedy bought the heater seven years ago.

She alleges Dimplex knew or ought to have known the heater was dangerous and overheated with normal use, tended to short and included an element that could lead to arcing, producing sparks and molten metal.

The heater, identified as model DCH-4831, is described on various websites as a heavy-duty construction heater.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2012 A16

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