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Lawyer’s Pants Ignite During Florida Arson Trial

lawyer's pants catch fire at arson trialSometimes reality presents a story that is so much greater than anything made up could ever be.

We’ve had some fun with various weird and off-the-wall stories here on the blog over time (the case of the coffee-flinging attorney certainly comes to mind rather quickly) but this one might be the high point. It’s honestly hard to imagine something coming along to top this series of events.

It all begins with the case of one Mr. Claudy Charles. Mr. Charles was accused of setting his own car on fire and was subsequently charged with arson. Arguments in the trial had been delivered. Cases had been made. And now, Mr. Charles’ attorney – Mr. Stephen Gutierrez – was preparing to make his closing statement; his final appeal on behalf of his client and the last thing standing between Mr. Charles and an arson conviction.

Mr. Gutierrez stood, began to speak, and shifted the contents of his pants pockets. And that was when his pants caught on fire.

The cynical among you will already take great pleasure in the symbolism of a lawyer’s pants igniting in flames. That this was an arson case, however, will only serve as more…ahem…fuel for the fire.

In the end, Mr. Charles was convicted of second-degree arson while Mr. Gutierrez was left to nurse his first-degree burns back to health. The cause of the fire was later attributed to a defective battery in Mr. Gutierrez’s electronic cigarette after Gutierrez repeatedly emphasized that the conflagration of his pants was anything but intentional. The presence of frayed and damaged batteries recovered from his pants serves to bolster his claims, however, he may still be found in contempt of court due to the outburst and disruption to the proceedings.

If the batteries in his e-cigarette did fail and cause the fire, Mr. Gutierrez would be far from the first person burned or injured by the devices. Injuries ranging from third-degree burns to tooth loss have occurred as electronic cigarettes have ignited in people’s clothing and exploded near their faces. The plaintiff in one New Jersey electronic cigarette case will require skin grafts to repair the damage done by third-degree burns covering 20 percent of his body. Mr. Gutierrez was lucky by most standards – only his pants caught on fire. This particular plaintiff saw his entire leg set ablaze.

While the surface of the subject and headline are humorous, the power contained in these devices is no laughing matter. As with any other consumer good, the electronic cigarette market is buyer beware and customers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with factors that may affect the quality of the devices and batteries they are buying.