A Southwest Philadelphia boy who suffered
burns over 20 percent of his body after a stove toppled and spilled
scalding water on him will receive $5 million in cash and up to $30
million more during his lifetime under terms of a settlement
reached this week.
In February 1999, 5-year-old Abraham Jaward walked in to the
kitchen of his mother's apartment, opened the oven door and climbed
onto the door to reach a pot on the stove. The stove turned over,
and the scalding water spilled onto Abraham's lower back and legs.
The boy was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, where
he was treated for second- and third-degree burns. During his
five-week stay at S. Christopher's, Abraham underwent three skin
Plaintiff's attorney Eunice Trevor said that although Abraham is
now an active and healthy 7-year-old, the scars on his lower back
and upper thighs are severe and could cause psychological
difficulties as he ages. Part of the settlement, Trevor added, will
fund ongoing counseling to help Abraham overcome potential problems
such as distancing himself from relationships due to his hidden
If Abraham lives to his full life expectancy of 73, he could
receive up to $29.1 million in payments.
A condition of the settlement agreement prevents the release of
the names of the attorneys who represented the landlord of
Abraham's apartment, Hoffman Place Apartments, and the undisclosed
manufacturer of the stove. The relative contribution of the
landlord and the manufacturer are also confidential terms of the
The premises liability action was filed against Hoffman Place,
and a strict products liability action was filed against the
The plaintiffs focused the case against the manufacturer on the
absence of any warning on the stove. The manufacturer relied on the
installation of an anti-tip device to prevent accidents. This
allowed responsibility for the accident to be shifted form the
manufacturer to the installer of the stove, Hoffman Place.
Trevor, who was co-counsel for the plaintiff with Martin K.
Brigham, said that Hoffman Place hired an inexperienced worker to
install stoves in the apartment complex, and that the worker did
not use an anti-tip device in the installation.
A paramedic in the district testified that six or seven stove
tip-overs had occurred in Abraham's neighborhood. After his family
sued, the apartment complex agreed to install the anti-tip device
in all of its stoves.
Trevor and Brigham attributed their success in the case to a
video recorded during Abraham's early physical therapy treatments
and to data collected on similar cases nationwide. The plaintiff's
attorneys began working on the case shortly after the accident and
were able to capture on video Abraham's initial physical therapy.
As a result, Trevor said, even two years later if the case had gone
to trial before a jury the jurors would have completely understood
what Abraham had endured.
The attorneys also indicated that stove tip-overs had been a
problem for decades and that the response by the real estate
community had been dismal. Nationwide the number of children burned
or crushed to death from toppling stoves is in the hundreds.
The collected data convinced the court to allow the plaintiff to
seek punitive damages from Hoffman Place and the manufacturer. From
the onset Abraham's attorneys were confident the case would settle
The settlement brochures, said Trevor, made it clear what would
happen at trial, so she and her co-counsel knew that the defendants
had all the information they needed to make a decision before a
Settlement Reflects Risk of Punitives Had Case Gone to Trial